BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State women’s basketball team is thankful to get another shot at Minnesota State Mankato.
The seventh-seed out of the North Division, the Beavers finished the regular season 11-15 overall and 7-15 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play. They travel to Mankato tonight to take on the second-seeded (and No. 17 ranked) Mavericks in the first round of the conference tournament. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.
“I know the players and coaches are excited to have a second season,” BSU head coach Mike Curfman said. “It’s the way it should be. It was a long regular season and now everyone starts over again. If you just play well at the right time, you’ve got a shot to win it all.”
It’s an opportunity the Beavers likely wouldn’t have received last season, as the conference changed its playoff format with expansion to 16 teams this season.
Last year, only the top eight teams made the tournament. This year, everyone gets in.
“It’s good to know that we don’t know when our last game is going to be,” BSU senior guard Shannon Thompson said.
“We can play every game like it’s our last.”
Last time the teams met (Feb. 8 in Mankato) the Beavers only trailed the Mavericks by four points at halftime. It took an MSU run midway through the second half for the Mavericks to pull away for the 69-59 victory.
“We played pretty well against them last time,” Curfman said. “We did a good job of getting the ball inside and exploiting the mismatch we had in there.”
BSU post player Kate Warmack led all scorers in the game with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Jessie Althoff and Emily Kaus also had some success inside, scoring five and six points, respectively.
Curfman said the Beavers will need that inside presence once again against the Mavericks (22-4, 18-4 NSIC).
“As a team, we did a real good job of getting the ball inside,” he said. “The one thing you don’t want to do with Mankato is get into a track meet, because they want to go up and down. They’re one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. We’d just as soon try and work inside, take care of the ball and play more of a halfcourt game.”
The Beavers weren’t able to do that last weekend in a pair of losses to Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State. Against UMD on Friday BSU gave up 33 points off 28 turnovers; against St. Cloud they gave up 14 points on 14 turnovers. BSU also shot just 36 percent against UMD and 32 percent against St. Cloud.
It was a complete 180 from where they were just two weekends ago on a road trip to North Dakota: BSU swept Minot State and U-Mary on the road by taking care of the ball and shooting in the 40-percent range each night.
“In the last few weeks we’ve played really well at times, and at times we haven’t played so well,” Curfman said. “So if we can figure out how to play well, how to play consistently for 40 minutes, we have a chance.”
Going on the road again might help the Beavers, too.
“When we’re on the road I think we’re a little more structured,” said Thompson, who was held to just nine points combined in the two home games last weekend but dropped 24 and 17 at Minot and Mary, respectively, on the road. “There aren’t as many distractions and I think we’re more focused on basketball. I think this will help us a little more than most games.”