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Bemidji State men's basketball: Beavers start strong, but No. 24 Augustana prevails in second half to win

Bemidji State's Lance Rongstad drives to the basket on Augustana's Cody Schilling during the first half Saturday night at BSU Gymnasium. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State men's basketball team seemed to be one shot away from taking control of Saturday night's game against No. 24 ranked Augustana.

Or one rebound. Or one free throw.

It was just that kind of night for the Beavers, which lost to the Vikings 80-73 at BSU Gymnasium.

"It seemed like we would get it around two, three or four points and we would have a decent defensive possession where we would challenge or contest a shot," Bemidji State head coach Matt Bowen said. " Then they (Augustana) executed and you have to give them credit because they made great plays at opportune times. For us to beat a team like that, we have to have to do a much better job executing ... we didn't play bad, but we didn't do enough to beat a team like Augustana. That's why they are 10-1."

Bemidji State had strong efforts from starters Seth Haake and Lance Rongstad.

Haake finished with a game-high 24 points and Rongstad had 16 points. David Berthene came off the bench to score 10 points for the Beavers.

The bench proved to be the difference in the game with Cameron McCaffrey scoring 15 points for the Vikings and Thomas Elliot scoring 10.

Augustana's bench outscored BSU's bench 36-13.

Starter Cody Schilling led Augustana with 20 points.

"I thought we played tough tonight but not as well as we have played all year," Rongstad said. "I felt like we played a solid game, but as a smaller team we got beat to too many loose balls and we can't let that kind of thing happen."

The loss dropped the Beavers under the .500 mark for the first time this season at 5-6 overall (2-3 NSIC).

BSU will look to snap a three-game losing streak in the weekend finale at BSU Gymnasium Sunday at 4 p.m. against Wayne State (4-7 overall, 1-3 NSIC), which lost in double overtime at Minnesota-Duluth Saturday.

Augustana improved to 10-1 overall (3-1 NSIC).

BSU junior forward Patrick Cassidy finished with eight points, all of which came in the second half. He scored 25 points last year in the Beavers loss to the Vikings.

"They put more pressure on him this time around," Bowen said. "I honestly thought Pat played a little passive in the first half and was much better in the second half. He's one of our upperclassmen and we need him. I thought in the second half he played much more aggressive and assertive. That's what we need him to do for us to be successful."

Bemidji State had the hot hand early against the Vikings and jumped out to a 16-8 lead through the first eight minutes of the game.

Rongstad scored seven points during that stretch and ended the game with six rebounds.

The freshman from Eleva, Wis., who also played BSU football last fall, has emerged as a solid starter for the Beavers since the suspensions of three players to conduct violations last month.

"That was a typical Lance game," Bowen said. "It was not his best by any means. But he's a good athlete and he's explosive. Tonight he was guarded by good athletes as well."

Augustana fought back to tie the game at 23-23 with six minutes to play in the half .

But BSU would push back for a 32-25 lead behind 3-pointers from Jake Lindstrom and Haake.

The last four minutes belonged to Augustana and the Vikings went on a 12-2 run to close out the half for a 37-34 lead at the break.

The Vikings never surrendered the lead again and led by as much as 10 points at two different times midway through the second half.

Bemidji State did not allow the game to get out of hand though and cut Augustana's deficit down two points on Haake's layup with 5:44 left in the game.

On the next trip up the court, Schilling pulled down an offensive rebound and made two free throws to put the Vikings up 65-61.

The Beavers were unable to answer when Berthene missed his jump shot - his only miss of the night - and Shilling followed with a layup to put the Vikings up 67-61.

When BSU cut the lead to 71-66 with two minutes to play, Bryce Tesdahl rimmed out a 3-point shot and Augustana's Elliot Thomas followed that miss with a 3-pointer with 1:39 to play to put the game out of reach for the Beavers.

It was that kind of night for Bemidji State.

"I thought it was a well played game on both ends," Bowen said. "What we want to have happen now... is if we can beat Winona State and play a team like Augustana like this, we have to bring this effort every game. Those teams are in the top four of our conference right now. After those teams, the differences between everyone else in the league is really not that much. But it will be a grind and we need to have that attention to detail like we had tonight to win games. Every night."