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MEN'S BASKETBALL: Beavers threaten Creighton before 94-46 loss

Bemidji State head coach Mike Boschee shakes hands with Creighton's Jacob Epperson (41) after the men's basketball game at the CenturyLink Center Omaha in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday. (Brendan Sullivan | Omaha World-Herald)1 / 4
Bemidji State's Derek Thompson (5) attempts to drive to the basket against Creighton's Jacob Epperson (41) during the first half of the college basketball game at the CenturyLink Center Omaha in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday. (Brendan Sullivan | Omaha World-Herald) 2 / 4
Bemidji State's Derek Thompson (5) shoots over Creighton's Toby Hegner (32), Ronnie Harrell Jr. (4) and Khyri Thomas (2) during the second half of the college basketball game at CenturyLink Center Omaha in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday. (Brendan Sullivan | Omaha World-Herald)3 / 4
Bemidji State's Christian Pekarek (11) drives to the basket against Creighton's Kaleb Joseph (14) during the first half of a college basketball game at the CenturyLink Center Omaha in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday. (Brendan Sullivan | Omaha World-Herald)4 / 4

OMAHA, Neb. -- For the majority of the first half on Tuesday, the college basketball world had to wonder, “What if?”

Creighton -- a top-tier team in the Big East -- was getting outplayed at home, down double-digits against an unfamiliar school to even most hoops diehards.

That opponent? None other than the Bemidji State men’s basketball team.

“We just did what we do,” BSU head coach Mike Boschee said. “My message was pretty much, ‘Do what we do.’ We played with confidence, we came out doing what we do. We ran our stuff pretty well, we moved the ball well, we made quick decisions, and we made shots.

“When you play with confidence, and you think you belong on the court, it was the way I think you’d want to start. And we did well.”

The Beavers visited the CenturyLink Center Omaha for an exhibition matchup with the Bluejays and put a scare into NCAA Tournament-bound Creighton, roaring out to a 21-11 advantage after seven minutes of play.

Bemidji State was hot from the field, which allowed them 13 minutes, 34 seconds of lead time in the first half. But despite the herculean start, Creighton blitzed the Beavers behind a second-half rampage, killing the drama in a 94-46 win.

“There’s just so much shooting and athleticism, and they’re really good defensively, too. It adds up to a quality team,” Boschee said of Creighton. “It was a really good first half… And then the second half obviously got away from us. But all in all, a pretty good experience for our guys, great atmosphere (against) really good top 25-type team.”

Christian Pekarek set the tone for BSU (11-14, 8-12 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) 10 seconds in, draining a corner 3-pointer to put Bemidji State in the opening lead.

But it didn’t end there. Derek Thompson and Sharif Black split an 8-0 run soon after, making for a 14-5 game. And although Toby Hegner scored twice from the paint for the Bluejays (19-7, 8-5 Big East) another layup for Black gave Bemidji State a 21-11 lead after 7 minutes, 12 seconds of play.

“It was a lot of fun,” Boschee said of the start. “We were playing well and making it difficult on them. That was a nice feeling, knowing Creighton needed their crowd a little bit to get them going.”

The dream was still alive when Zach Baumgartner drained a 3-pointer four minutes later, but Creighton then ran off 11 straight points for a 33-30 lead. An ensuing jumper for Jai’Vionne Green brought the difference back within a point, but then the Jays ran off another 12 in a row, making for a 45-34 game by halftime.

Unlike the first half, though, Creighton didn’t allow BSU to stick around in the final frame. After the Bluejays scored nine of the first 10 points out of the break, Pekarek hit a jumper from 16 feet out. But it only marked the beginning of the 18-0 Creighton run that followed.

The Beavers started 1-for-17 from the field in the second half, which led to a 72-37 deficit with 10 minutes left to play. The Bluejays poured it on from there, ultimately working to the 94-46 win behind a 49-12 second-half rout.

“I wish we would’ve come out a little bit better,” Boschee said. “I felt like we didn’t move the ball quite as well to start the second half. We took some questionable shots to start the second half. And then we weren’t able to get out of it.”

Black finished with a team-high 13 points for Bemidji State, all coming within the opening 11 minutes. Pekarek added 11 points to go alone with Green’s nine, and Thompson added seven points and seven rebounds.

Jacob Epperson tallied 15 points off the bench for Creighton, leading the Jays’ reserves to 51 on the night. Meanwhile, Marcus Foster led the starters with 12 points and Khyri Thomas pitched in another 10.

“It’s a lifelong memory for everyone that was able to step on the court tonight, be able to play a quality, top 25 team like that with some (future) NBA players on the court,” said Boschee. “Before the game, we talked about doing the things we needed to do to continue to get better. I think we did that in the first half. Second half, I think it got away, but I think we did a lot of really positive things that we can build from.”

Bemidji State closes out the regular season in its return to NSIC play this weekend, starting with a 6 p.m. matchup with U-Mary on Friday, Feb. 16, in Bismarck, N.D.

Creighton 94, Bemidji State 46

BSU 34 12 -- 46

CU 45 49 -- 94

Bemidji State (11-14, 8-12 NSIC) -- Black 13, Pekarek 11, Green 9, Thompson 7, Baumgartner 3, Chase 3, Bader 0, Jacobson 0, McNallan 0, Rovney 0, Sorenson 0. Totals 17-63 6-8 46.

Creighton (19-7, 8-5 Big East) -- Epperson 15, Foster 12, Clement 11, Thomas 10, Hegner 9, Ballock 7, Harrell Jr. 7, Joseph 7, Alexander 6, Mintz 5, Suarez 5, Scurry 0. Totals 38-73 5-8 94.

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.

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