ROCHESTER-- Minnesota State Moorhead advanced to today's NSIC tournament championship game with a 73-64 win over top-seeded Bemidji State Saturday at Taylor Arena in Rochester.
With Saturday's win, the Dragons are 3-0 against the Beavers this season.
"It is a great feeling," MSU Moorhead guard Jordan Riewer said. "We have tomorrow and then next weekend for regions. It is a fun game."
"They are a difficult match-up for us," Bemidji State head coach Matt Bowen said. "Their guards play very well against us. When they shoot like they did today, they are tough to beat."
The Beavers (22-8) got off to a fast start and jumped to an early 7-0 lead after a pair of baskets from Zach Noreen and one from James Ellisor.
"They were unbelievable early on," MSU Moorhead head coach Chad Walthall said. "They have such beautiful motion. If you aren't really ready they're going to get you."
Ellisor connected on nine of his 12 shots and led all scorers with 20 points.
"Ellisor is going to get his points because he is so good," Walthall said. "We just wanted to make him work as hard as possible for them."
The Dragons clawed their way back and cut the BSU lead to 19-16 after a 3-pointer from DJ Hamilton with 13:25 left in the first half. A 3-pointer from Jake Driscoll tied the game 22-22 with 10:40 remaining in the half.
MSU Moorhead shot 10-of-21 from long distance in the game.
"We're not a team that is going to get many offensive rebounds," Walthall said. "It is important for us to shoot the ball well, probably moreso than other teams because we won't get as many opportunities."
The Beavers would answer with a 10-3 run to build a 32-25 lead with just under six minutes to play in the half.
The Dragons responded with a 10-4 run of their own over the next six minutes, however, to cut the deficit to 37-35 at halftime.
"Coach said that calming down was the big thing," Riewer said. "We collapsed down on defense and it was one of those grind it out games. They are a good physical team."
A 3-pointer from Riewer gave MSU Moorhead its first lead at 42-39 with 16:49 remaining.
Riewer finished with 16 points on 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc.
Charlie Chapman capped a 10-3 run with a layup to give Moorhead its largest lead up to that point at 49-42 but
BSU quickly responded with baskets from Mason Walters, Dermaine Crockrell and Ellisor to close the gap back to 49-48 with 11:16 left to play.
A steal and a layup from Hamilton extended the Dragon lead back to seven points at 62-55 with just over four minutes remaining.
Hamilton scored 17 points with three 3-pointers.
Moorhead hung on by knocking down its free throws and maintaining the tight defense.
"You have to give their defense some credit," Bowen said. "But I think we left a lot of plays out there. We missed some point-blank shots that you just can't afford to miss at this juncture of the season."
Noreen and Bryce Tesdahl eached scored 11 points for the Beavers. Alex Novak led the Dragons with 18 points.
MSU Moorhead (20-8) will play in the conference championship at 4:30 p.m. today.
"We're going to enjoy this for at least a couple of hours," Walthall said. "Then we will start concentrating on tomorrow, both Winona State and Southwest are very good and will present all kind of challenges. We're happy to be one of the final two teams."
MSU Moorhead (73)
Novak 18 5-9 8-11, Hamilton 17 6-14 3-6, Riewer 16 4-6 5-5, Chapman 12 3-8 4-4, Driscoll 5 2-3 0-0, Olson 2 1-1 0-0, Reed 0 0-0 0-0. Totals 73 22-47 19-22.
Bemidji State (64)
Ellisor 20 9-12 1-1, Noreen 11 5-10 1-1, Tesdahl 11 4-5 0-0, Crockrell 8 3-9 2-2, Rongstad 7 2-7 3-6, Schalow 3 1-5 0-0, Rosenbloom 2 1-2 0-0, Walters 2 1-3 0-1, Kinnell 0 0-1 0-0, Edwards 0 0-1 0-0. Totals 64 26-55 7-11.
Halftime: Bemidji State 37, MSU Moorhead 35