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Bemidji State men's basketball team looks to pull together in NSIC opener

Tyler Wruck and the Bemidji State men's basketball team hosts MSU, Moorhead tonight. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State men's basketball team will look to pull together in the conference opener Friday night after the suspension of three players earlier this week.

Bemidji State begins the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference season tonight at BSU Gymnasium against Minnesota State University, Moorhead and wraps up weekend play Saturday against Minnesota-Crookston. Both game times are set for 8 p.m.

Bemidji State head coach Matt Bowen has not settled on a starting lineup for the game, which will have a different look after he suspended juniors Jimmy Johnson, Brady Fairbanks and Sergej Baskow indefinitely Tuesday for violating BSU's Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.

Bowen declined to reveal what that violation was in an interview Wednesday but confirmed the violation was not criminal nor was the violation a threat to public safety.

He said the remaining players on the team have emotionally moved forward in practice since the announcement of the suspensions.

"They're focused," Bowen said. "It's unfortunate what happened. No one likes to lose a teammate. But we have standards within the team and within the university. The best way to explain it is that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution and the guys that remain here are part of the solution."

Bowen said the biggest adjustment the team has had to make this week are routines during practice.

"We have to slow down our reps because we just do not have as many subs," Bowen said. "With those guys gone we've lost some height, definitely on the inside, but I don't think the offense will be disrupted by this."

Johnson and Fairbanks have started in every game this season while Baskow has come off the bench.

The Beavers were forced to deal with a similar lineup situation last year when Fairbanks was limited by a nagging ankle injury for a few months and Baskow was sidelined for the year to a torn ACL in his knee.

"We were still able to score 60-70 points a game and knock on wood that hopefully we have that output again," Bowen said. "The NSIC is a league were most teams run a center with four guards and hopefully we can create some matchup problems there."

BSU senior guard Seth Haake has been off to the best start this season for the Beavers. His 12 points per game average lead the team.

"Seth has been scoring very well, though I'd like to see him make less turnovers and keep his fouls down," Bowen said. "He had a good year last year and he was an all-conference type player but we didn't have enough wins as a team to get him there."

Bowen also said sophomore guard Bryce Tesdahl (7 points per game) and junior forward Patrick Cassidy's (9 points per game) start to the season has been "solid."

Tesdhal and Cassidy will be leaned on in more critical situations while the suspensions are served.

Despite the turmoil this week, the Beavers are 3-2 overall heading into the games against Moorhead (2-3) and Crookston (3-1).

"I'm not really happy with the start to our season and I anticipated a better record at this time when I looked at our schedule at the beginning of the year," Bowen said. "In the games we've lost, we found a way to lose. In games we won, we found a way to win. But this is the first time since I've been here that we've had a winning record in December and we'll take it."