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Bemidji State moves into first place in NSIC men's basketball standings

Bemidji State's Dermaine Crockrell, left, goes for a dunk against Upper?Iowa's Tucker Wentzien in the first half of Friday's game. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

The Bemidji State men's basketball team moved into a tie for first place in the NSIC by outlasting Upper Iowa 77-65 Friday at the BSU gym.

"It's everything we can ask for," Bemidji State head coach Matt Bowen said. "When we recruit kids this is what we tell them they can be a part of. And now we are here."

The win was the 20th of the season, equaling the most in program's history - a mark set in the 2003-04 season.

"It means that this is one of the best teams in the history of Bemidji State basketball," Bowen said. "I hope we can get to 24, 25, or 26 wins."

If Bemidij State (20-7, 15-6 NSIC) can defeat Winona State today, it would earn at least a share of the league crown.

Early in the contest James Ellisor brought the crowd to its feet when he threw down a huge dunk over Upper Iowa defender Tucker Wentzien. Ellisor, who was fouled on the play converted on the free throw to give BSU an early 10-8 lead.

"We had a few plays, a couple of dunks from me and Dermaine that got the crowd involved," Ellisor said.

Ellisor led all scorers with 32 points on 13-of-17 shooting.

"I was attacking the basket," Ellisor said. "Most of my shots came in the paint. I try to post up and get inside whenever I feel that I have a mismatch."

A three-point play from Wentzien gave Upper Iowa a 31-28 lead with 4:52 remaining in the half. Wentzien led the Peacocks with 26 points and five rebounds.

The Beavers, however, closed the half by going on a 12-1 run to build a 40-32 halftime lead.

"It turned out to be huge," Bowen said of the run. "We laid an egg to start the second half."

The Peacocks answered by going on a 10-0 spurt in the first two minutes of the second session to retake the lead at 42-40.

Following baskets by Dermaine Crockrell and Ellisor, BSU led 58-53 with 7:52 left to play and the Beavers preserved the victory by taking care of the ball and hitting their free throws down the stretch.

Lance Rongstad posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

"It is going to be big," Ellisor said. "It will be the first time in program history where we can get over 20 wins. I'm very excited and looking forward to it."

The Beavers tip-off against Winona State at 6 p.m.

Upper Iowa (65)

Wentzien 9-15, 7-11, 26, Woods 5-10, 4-4, 14; Lafrenz 2-4, 0-0, 5; Hughes 2-3, 0-0, 4; Lafrenze 1-3, 0-0, 2; pagel 0-2, 1-2, 1; Johnson 0-1, 0-0, 0; Nagle 0-0, 0-0, 0. Totals: 24-53, 14-20, 65

Bemidji State (77)

Ellisor 13-17, 6-7, 32; Crockrell 7-11, 0-1, 15; Rongstad 2-5, 4-4, 12; Tesdahl 2-6, 2-4, 7; Walters 2-5, 2-4, 6; Schalow 1-4, 1-2, 3; Noreen 1-4, 0-0, 2; Rosenbloom 0-0, 0-0, 0; Edwards 0-0, 0-0, 0; Kinnell 0-0, 0-0, 0. Totals; 28-52, 17-24, 77.

Halftime: Bemidji State 40 Upper Iowa 32