The Bemidji State University men's basketball team trailed for most of a 78-66 loss to Wayne State College Sunday, but made a run to tie the game 62-62 with 4:31 left in the regulation before running out of gas in the final minutes of a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game played at the BSU Gymnasium. The Wildcats shot 58.3 percent from the field, the most by a BSU opponent this season.
"We have to get better on defense," said head coach Matt Bowen. "It's okay when a team has a hot shooting night against you, but when it happens more and more, something is wrong on our end. We need consistency from all our players, especially with the short bench we have."
The Beavers (5-7, 2-4 NSIC) had its only lead of the game in the first three minutes of the game. A couple of buckets from sophomore Lance Rongstad gave BSU a 4-2 lead and then a 6-5 lead, but WSC went on a 9-0 run to grab a 14-6 lead at the 14:07 mark. The Wildcats kept a two-possession lead through the rest of the half until a free throw from senior Seth Haake put BSU within three with 4:44 remaining in the frame. The two teams traded hoops for the rest of the half and the Beavers trailed 34-31 heading into the locker room.
BSU kept the deficit low to start the second half, but a 16-4 Wildcat run that took six minutes off the clock put the Beavers in a deep hole. BSU responded with a 7-0 run to cut the WSC lead to six, as four different beavers lit-up the scoreboard. The Beavers were able to keep the deficit to single-digits over the next six minutes of the game, finally tying the score at 62-62 with 4:31 on the clock. BSU tied the score with seven unanswered points, all from its Wisconsin natives, four coming from Rongstad and the other three from freshman Mason Walters. Two free throws from each side again tied the game at 64-64 with 3:05 left on the clock. WSC's Brad Starken broke the tie on the next possession with a 3-pointer. BSU failed to respond and the Wildcats took a five point lead with two free throws. Junior Patrick Cassidy cut the deficit to three with two free throws with 2:12 remaining. Unfortunately for BSU those points would be the last the home team would post on the scoreboard, as six free throws and another Starken bomb closed out the game and handed BSU its fourth consecutive loss.
Haake scored a team-high 16 points, while Rongstad (15), Cassidy (11) and Walters (11) were also in double-figures. Rongstad added a team-high six rebounds and was 6-of-9 from the field. Sophomore guard Bryce Tesdahl posted nine points and eight assists. BSU didn't shoot poorly at a 43.4 mark and only turned the ball over seven times to WSC's 16.
BSU travels to Concordia University Jan. 8 and St. Cloud State Jan. 9 for an NSIC road trip.