BEMIDJI -- They say practice makes perfect, but nobody promised the latter comes quickly.
The Bemidji State women’s basketball team found itself in another down-to-the-wire finish on Saturday at the BSU Gymnasium, but U-Mary owned the fourth quarter for a 76-70 win.
“We’ve been in enough close ones where we’ve had the practice,” head coach Chelsea DeVille said. “We’re trying to figure out how to suck it up and finish. It’s easier said than done, but we just have to find a way to win when we’re in these situations from now on.”
The loss spoiled a 19-point first-half lead and dropped the Beavers to 1-7 in games decided by 10 points or fewer this season.
“They weren’t going to go away,” DeVille said. “I’m sure they weren’t happy with their first-half performance. We really dominated that first half, and they just chipped away and were coming back, coming back.”
Bemidji State (7-11, 4-10 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) came out angry, lighting up the scoreboard for 29 points in the first frame. The total tied the program’s most in a quarter within conference play since NCAA women’s basketball switched from halves to quarters at the beginning of the 2015-16 season.
“Yesterday, we shouldn’t have lost the way we did,” sophomore forward Claire Wolhowe said in reference to Friday’s 72-65 upset loss to Minot State. “We came out with a chip on our shoulder and confident. That made us confident in our shots, and we were passing well.”
BSU separated from an 8-8 tie with a 14-0 run, with Wolhowe producing back-to-back 3-pointers and 10 points in the stretch.
Rachael Heittola added the quarter’s exclamation mark with a textbook screen-and-roll, turning Erica Gartner’s lofted pass into a layup at the buzzer and a 29-13 advantage.
“Both ends of the floor, we were playing well,” DeVille said. “We shared the basketball, we found our open teammates, we knocked down shots. Defensively, we took them out of what they wanted to do, and we were tougher.”
The Beavers led by as many as 19 in the second quarter -- as late as 38-19 on a Heittola bucket in the post. But the Marauders (14-9, 8-6 NSIC) scored the next 10 points, ultimately keeping within 43-31 by halftime.
BSU continued to preserve the lead in the third, never letting it slip under five and carrying a 58-51 edge into the final frame, but U-Mary dominated from then on.
Bemidji State went 3:30 without a point, which allowed the Marauders the chance to score nine straight and tie the game at 62-all with 3:42 remaining.
Wolhowe answered with a jumper, but Megan Voit drained a 3-pointer to hand U-Mary the lead. It also began a 7-0 spurt that Voit finished off with another triple.
“Even the third quarter, you survive it when they’re coming back, but that fourth quarter, we just went empty,” DeVille said. “We had a scoring drought, again, where we couldn’t find a score when we were taking good shots. … We’ve just got to find a way to score and then not make mental mistakes defensively where they get a couple back-to-back threes.”
The Marauders posted a 25-12 advantage in the fourth quarter -- a far cry from the first and just enough for the six-point win.
“We just went cold in the fourth,” Wolhowe said. “We weren’t making the shots we made earlier in the game, and they were hitting good shots at the end of the game. … We didn’t play as well as we should have, and they played well.”
Trinity Myer posted a team-best 15 points, and Wolhowe backed her up with 14. Heittola had 13 off the bench, and Taylor Bray had 10 points.
Lauren Rotunda put up 30 points for U-Mary.
Things don’t get any easier for Bemidji State. The Beavers will next host No. 11 Sioux Falls at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, at the BSU Gymnasium.
U-Mary 76, Bemidji State 70
U-M 13 18 20 25 -- 76
BSU 29 14 15 12 -- 70
U-MARY (14-9, 8-6 NSIC) -- Rotunda 30, Schneider 18, Voit 12, Askvig 9, Kottsick 3, Gillette 2, Hearn 2, Bartek 0, Bartol 0, Williams 0. Totals 29-56, 12-18, 76.
BEMIDJI STATE (7-11, 4-10 NSIC) -- Myer 15, Wolhowe 14, Heittola 13, Bray 10, Bachmann 9, Zerr 9, DuBois 0, Gartner 0, Rezabek 0. Totals 30-56, 4-7, 70.