BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State men’s basketball team had a victory for the taking Saturday night. But, through a ferocious two-handed dunk with 1.6 seconds remaining, Matthew Kreklow flushed away the Beavers’ hopes and vaulted U-Mary to a 78-77 win at the BSU Gymnasium.
“You know they’re going to get a shot regardless… but you want to make it as difficult as you possibly can,” Bemidji State head coach Mike Boschee said. “You want it to be over the top of somebody, and if they make the shot, tip your hat. We were having trouble guarding the ball all night.”
Kreklow’s slam came after Nick Wagner missed the front end of his bonus free throws with 11.3 seconds to play. The score remained 77-76 Beavers with the miss, and Kreklow exploited a backbreaking defensive breakdown on the other end for the dunk.
Wagner misses the front end of a 1-and-1 with a one-point lead, and U-Mary get quite the high-percentage look with 1.5 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/5WmHSBgpgc— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) January 26, 2020
“We just got some matchups mixed up and it was a scramble,” Wagner said. “They got the guy wide open right underneath the basket.”
Kreklow’s silencer spoiled a solid offensive night for the BSU (8-10, 5-9 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference), one where it scored on 21 of 29 second-half possessions.
“Second half, especially down the stretch, we were pretty good,” Boschee said. “We had to be pretty good down the stretch to take the lead. But obviously the free throws were huge. It could have given us a three-point lead with 12 seconds left. And then that (dunk) doesn’t affect us as much.”
Logan Bader made one of two free throws for a 77-73 lead with 1:22 to play, Bemidji State’s ninth straight offensive possession ending in a score. But the Beavers came up empty on their final four, including Zach Baumgarter’s bobbled, makeshift prayer at the buzzer on a Hail Mary inbound pass from the opposite baseline.
“We’ve had a lot of games like this,” Wagner said. “We’ve been right there, about four or five of these in our last six, and we just can’t pull them out. It’s hard to lose close games, but at the same time… a few other things going right easily could switch things the other way around. We know we’re right there with anyone in the conference still.”
Saturday’s loss makes six in a row for BSU, five of which have been decided in the final minute of regulation or in overtime.
The Marauders (10-10, 5-9 NSIC) worked ahead 37-32 by halftime, and they did their best to fend off Bemidji State for the majority of the second half.
But the Beavers scored seven straight for a 65-62 edge with seven minutes remaining, then nearly took the lead for good when Wagner converted on an and-one layup for a 74-71 advantage with three minutes left.
Bader’s free throw stretched the lead to four with 82 ticks to play, but U-Mary manufactured the five-point swing on a Connor Hellebust three and Kreklow’s dunk.
“We just can’t come through with a pressure free throw, we can’t come through with a big stop,” Boschee said.
Wagner tallied a game-high 23 points, while Bader followed suit with 15 points and eight rebounds. Max Bjorklund and Derek Thompson contributed a dozen points apiece.
Hellebust finished with 22 in the win alongside 11 from Trever Kaiser. Kreklow finished with eight points.
Bemidji State will have a steep test when NSIC-leading Sioux Falls next rolls into the BSU Gymnasium for a 7:30 p.m. tip on Friday, Jan. 31.
U-Mary 78, Bemidji State 77
U-M 37 41 -- 78
BSU 32 45 -- 77
U-MARY (10-10, 5-9 NSIC) -- Hellebust 22, Kaiser 11, Carr 9, Kreklow 8, Sipes 8, Amundson 6, White 6, Jordan 5, Engg 3. Totals 28-51, 11-19, 78.
BEMIDJI STATE (8-10, 5-9 NSIC) -- Wagner 23, Bader 15, Bjorklund 12, Thompson 12, Chase 6, Landwehr 4, Olizia 3, Baumgartner 2. Totals 27-47, 13-18, 77.