Sophomore guard Sydney Epema (Crookston, Minn.) hit a career-high seven 3-pointers, en route to a career-high 29 points to guide the Bemidji State University women's basketball team to a 83-79 victory against Wayne State College at the BSU Gymnasium Sunday afternoon. Epema shot 7-of-11 from 3-point land, while adding seven rebounds and two steals.
"I thought it was key early on that Sydney hit some big 3-point shots and then we able to work some high-low and get some easy baskets," said head coach Mike Curfman. "It was a great team effort and a great bounce-back win against an extremely talented team to get us back to even in the conference."
Games are won at the free throw line and that was one reason BSU was able to tame the Wildcats. BSU shot 18-of-19 (94.7 percent) from the charity stripe in the win, a spot that has hurt the Beavers thus far this season. BSU made all 11 free throw attempts in the second half, including six in the final two minutes.
The game started with a shootout of the two teams' top scorers, Epema and WSC's Ashley Arlen, as the two players counted for 12 of the game's first 14 points. The Wildcats (9-3, 2-3 NSIC) held a 14-10 lead with 14:31 left on the clock in the first half, but the Beavers (9-3, 3-3 NSIC) battled back to take a lead at 18-15, thanks to six points from freshman center Emily Kaus (Eagan, Minn.). WSC came back and regained a one-point advantage with 10:41 left. Epema responded with a 3-pointer to start a 16-6 run that ended at the 5:39 mark on an Epema bomb. The Wildcats then went on a 18-10 run to close the half and the Beavers held a 46-45 lead heading into the locker room. BSU went 7-14 from beyond the arc in the half, but WSC was 8-13 in the same category. Kaus had 10 points in the half.
BSU was able to keep a small lead to start the second frame until Arlen converted on a lay-up and gave WSC a one-point lead at 16:25. The Beavers took the lead back on the next possession and an Epema three gave BSU the four point lead with 15:27 on the clock. The Wildcats then proceeded to go on a 11-0 run to snatch a seven point advantage. Epema had enough at the 11:03 mark and drove to the basket, scoring, while also drawing a foul. BSU was down or tied until 5:36 read on the scoreboard. At that spot, freshman Shannon Thompson (G, Rosemount, Minn.) knocked down a 3-pointer to give the home team a 77-73 lead. The Wildcats' next possession lasted 1:08 as WSC had four shots to score, but couldn't convert. BSU dodged a bullet on the defense stop and then Epema put the stake in the hearts of the Wildcats with her seventh and final 3-point basket of the game with 4:28 left on the clock. Two WSC free throws tied the game for the fifth time with 2:10 on the clock. Thompson put BSU back on top with two freebies on the next possession. The Beavers got a stop on the other end of the floor and Epema scored her 28th and 29th points of the game at the line with 1:38 remaining. BSU had a couple chances to stretch the lead, but let the Wildcats hung around. WSC scored with 45 seconds left to go down two at 79-81. After a missed shot by Arlen, freshman center Jessie Althoff (Becker, Minn.) came down with a huge rebound and was fouled with two seconds left. WSC called a timeout to put more pressure on the young Althoff, but she remained as cool as the other side of the pillow and dropped both her one-and-one free throws. With a four point lead and only two seconds left the game was sealed for BSU, as it earned a split on the weekend to open the year 2010.
The Beavers shot 45 percent from the field and held WSC to 37.3 percent. The Wildcats shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, while the Beavers were 11-of-26 (42.3 percent) from beyond the 3-point line. Thompson had 13 points and three assists. Kaus had all her points in the first half, but had four rebounds, two blocks and two assists in the second. Epema and Althoff each had a team-high seven rebounds. Althoff had eight points to go with the seven rebounds, adding three assists. Junior Colleen McKay (C, Barnum, Minn.) had eight points and six rebounds with two assists and two steals in a starting role.
The Beavers travel to Concordia University and St. Cloud State Jan. 8-9 for a NSIC road trip.