BEMIDJI -- In its most important game of the year, the Bemidji State men’s basketball team delivered in a big way on Friday.
The Beavers saw Wayne State sneak out to a 7-2 lead after less than two minutes. But for the final 38 minutes of the night, Bemidji State was simply dominant, making for a 91-70 victory at the BSU Gymnasium.
“We’ve shown that we can be a pretty darn good team… Maybe tonight we played closer to 40 minutes than we have,” BSU head coach Mike Boschee said. “Guys were just playing well. When you have a lot of guys playing well at the same time, good things are going to happen.”
Taking control after the Wildcats’ (12-13, 7-10 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) early run, Derek Thompson finished off a 10-0 spurt to give BSU (10-12, 7-10 NSIC) a 14-9 lead seven minutes in. And soon after, Zach Baumgartner brought the house down with a two-handed transition slam during another 10-0 run that put the Beavers in a 30-13 advantage.
“We shot the ball well. We got out in transition,” Christian Pekarek said. “I think transition was key for us. We had a couple easy buckets and Zach had a huge dunk, and it kind of got us sparked.”
WSC fought off the blowout by shooting 7-for-15 from beyond the arc in the first half, but Bemidji State used its sizeable cushion for a 52-34 lead by the break.
Sharif Black, Pekarek and Jai’Vionne Green combined for a 7-0 run to open the second half with a floater, a layup and a 3-pointer, respectively. Matt Thomas scored the next five for Wayne State, but the Beavers then went on another run.
After Pekarek sunk a three, Black matched it with one of his own and threw in a fast-break layup for an 8-0 spurt. Just five minutes into the second half, BSU had 29-point lead at 67-38 -- their largest of the night.
“It just comes down to the defensive end: getting stops, rebounding, getting out,” Pekarek said. “I thought our bigs played really well. It was nice to put a full 40 minutes together tonight.”
The Wildcats partly closed the gap over the final 15 minutes, but the Beavers still followed with answers. Baumgartner shut the coffin -- even with 10 minutes left to play -- when he swatted away a shot on the defensive end and then followed with a putback dunk on the offensive end.
It got BSU in a 74-48 lead, well on their way to the 91-70 final.
“Wayne is a really good team. They’ve proven that they can beat some of the best teams in the league,” Pekarek said. “We just came out, tried to do what we had to do -- rebound and guard -- and we put ourselves in a good position.”
All five starters scored in double figures for Bemidji State. Pekarek and Black had 22 apiece and Green followed with 20, while Logan Bader added 13 and Thompson 10. Green also finished with 10 rebounds for a double-double, and Black (nine), Pekarek (eight) and Bader (eight) all threatened to hit the plateau through the glass, as well.
“When you look at the stat sheet, you could argue, ‘Who didn’t play well?’” Boschee said. “It was nice to see, and if we want to continue moving forward and playing at a high level, we need a lot of guys playing well.”
Bemidji State returns to the court at 6 tonight to host Augustana at the BSU Gymnasium. And they’re already looking past Friday’s performance.
“It’s a win, great. But we’ve got to move on in this league,” Boschee said. “(Saturday) night, we’ve got to be able to repeat it.”