The Bemidji State men's basketball team returned from holiday break Tuesday night with an 84-75 loss to Northern Michigan in Marquette.
The Beavers were paced by senior guard Seth Haake's game-high 27 points, but cold shooting and foul trouble in the second half led to the loss.
"Free throws were a huge part of the game, there was a huge foul discrepancy and that's to be expected on the road," Bemidji State head coach Matt Bowen said. "But the bottom line is that when it was tied 54-54 in the second half with about nine minutes remaining, their bench hit some big shots. Then we had a series of three or four turnovers followed by a missed shot."
Northern Michigan had 22 free throw opportunities in the second half compared to two for Bemidji State. The Wildcats made 26 of its 29 free throws in the game.
"They had a bit of a size advantage on us, they played us in a zone defense and we played them in a man-to-man style," Bowen said. "When you add all those three things up there's going to be a foul discrepancy."
Lance Rongstad and Jake Lindstrom each had 13 points for the Beavers. Bryce Tesdahl had 11.
Bemidji State's record dropped to 5-5 overall (2-2 NSIC) with the loss. The Beavers return to Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play this weekend at BSU Gymnasium. BSU hosts No. 24 Augustana at 6 p.m. Saturday and Wayne State Sunday at 4 p.m.
The Beavers were competitive against Northern Michigan and led 38-35 at halftime. BSU pushed that lead to eight points early in the second half.
"That was also one of the keys in the game," Bowen said. "We had that six-to-eight point cushion and we couldn't pull away; they would hit a three and cut us back down to five," Bowen said.
Raymont McElroy had 22 points and Jared Benson had 18 points to lead the Wildcats, which improved to 5-4 overall.
The Beavers were outrebounded in the game by a slim 34-29 margin.
Rongstad had a team-high eight rebounds and Tesdahl had seven.
Northern Michigan had 11 steals compared to four steals for Bemidji State.
The deciding moments in the game came at the 54-54 tie score in the second half when the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run behind a pair of 3-pointers from Sebastien Salios and McElroy.
The closest BSU would get the rest of the way was a 70-64 deficit on Lindstrom's 3-pointer with 2:23 to play.
"Our kids played hard the entire time but we just weren't able to get it done," Bowen said. "We did not have a lot of breaks go our way in the second half ... but I'm happy with our effort. We had some bright spots and there are brighter days ahead of us - we just weren't able to finish this one out. Bemidji State has only beat Northern Michigan three times in the history of the school, so this would have been a nice one to have."