BEMIDJI – In mid-January the Bemidji State men’s basketball team made the long road trip south and dropped a pair of games, losing 70-67 to Winona and 81-67 to Upper Iowa.
Last week in the NSIC playoff quarterfinals the Beavers reversed the Winona setback when they edged the Warriors 74-72 in Winona.
Today at 2:30 p.m. they will have the opportunity to do the same with Upper Iowa as BSU (17-11) and the Peacocks (20-10) square off at Taylor Arena in Rochester in the conference playoff semifinals.
Today’s winner will return to Taylor Arena 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the NSIC playoff title game against the winner of Friday’s other semifinal between Minnesota State and Augustana.
The Beavers are eager for the challenge and the players and coaches know that everyone will have to contribute if BSU is going to advance.
“It’s going to take all of us to win this game,” said junior forward Zach Noreen. “Defense is always the key. Upper Iowa has individuals who can go off and we’ll have to contain as much as we can.”
Among those individuals are Sam Elgin, Jake Hughes and Tucker Wentzien. In the regular season contest Elgin scored 27 points while Hughes had 14 and Wentzien 13.
Bemidji State countered with four players in double figures. Lance Rongstad tallied 16, Noreen 14, Mason Walters 12 and Dermaine Crockrell 11.
“Upper Iowa is a great basketball team and one that does many things that are difficult for a defense to handle,” said BSU coach Mike Boschee. “We have to be ready to play our best basketball in order to win.
“Winona had a go-to player (Clayton Vette) but Upper Iowa has many guys who share the basketball. When you play against Upper Iowa you have to prepare for a lot of guys,” the coach added.
Bemidji State is making its second straight appearance in the NSIC playoff semifinals in Rochester and that experience could be an ally today.
“You have to love the atmosphere at Rochester,” Noreen said. “When you are down there it’s all serious and this is what we live for.”
“You hope that being at Rochester last year is an advantage for us but I don’t know if it is,” Boschee said. “Upper Iowa isn’t thinking that we have any advantage. There are two quality teams that do things well.
“It should be an entertaining game.”
NOTES: BSU is on a season-long five-game winning streak and is 8-2 in its last 10 games … Both the Beavers and Upper Iowa were predicted to finish 12th in the NSIC preseason coaches’ poll … BSU’s defense is allowing an average of 66.2 points per game … When scoring 70 or more points this year Bemidji State is 13-2.
NSIC Men’s Basketball Playoffs
Taylor Arena, Rochester
Game 1: BSU (17-11) vs. Upper Iowa (20-10), 2:30 p.m.
Game 2: Minnesota St. (24-4) vs. Augustana (21-7), 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 5:30 p.m.