MANKATO -- More than once, the final step of a comeback was within reach for the Bemidji State men’s basketball team Wednesday night.
But for a team so often fueled by its offensive prowess this season, the Beavers went cold when it mattered most and suffered a 71-61 loss to Minnesota State in the NSIC Tournament opener at Mankato.
“That’s the disheartening part: You feel like you’re so good offensively that you’re confident,” BSU head coach Mike Boschee said. “We were pretty good defensively (tonight). In the last three or four weeks, our defense improved drastically. But then to have our offense let us down in the playoffs, it’s a bummer to say the least.”
Bemidji State shot an untimely 35.2 percent from the floor, its second-worst showing of the season and its lowest mark in conference play since December 2017.
“We just couldn't make any big shots,” Boschee said. “Layups were missing, we missed a couple big free throws. It was like we never could make it happen. It was frustrating because we’ve been pretty good offensively.”
The fourth-seeded Beavers (14-13) still managed to stick around all night, though. After spotting the fifth-seeded Mavericks (15-14) the first nine points, Nick Wagner got the offense going with a pair of 3-pointers. The second was his 80th of the year, breaking Adam Daley’s 16-year-old record of 79 for the most in single-season program history.
Derek Thompson added his own milestone achievement on a nothing-but-net three late in the first half, which carried him over 1,000 points in his career. Thompson is just the second player in the program’s 98-year history to ever reach 1,000 points as a junior.
.@DerekThompson32 just joined some very elite company on this nothing-but-net three, which puts him over 1,000 career points.— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) February 27, 2020
He’s the 19th member of the @BSUBeaversMBB 1,000 Point Club and is believed to be just the second junior ever to hit the milestone. Congrats, Derek! pic.twitter.com/W2Qng5OMnS
MSU rode its headstart all half, going into the locker rooms with a 30-22 advantage.
BSU didn’t produce a quick run to open the final frame by any means, but an 8-3 edge over four minutes still got Bemidji State within 33-30 off a Ja Morgan triple.
“If your defense can be good all the time, it will always give you a chance no matter where you are,” Boschee said. “I felt like our defense was good enough to give us a chance on the road against Mankato.”
Even though Minnesota State brought the difference back out nine, Morgan and Cody Landwehr then combined for an 8-0 run for another push. Morgan capped it on a floater in the lane with 6:21 to go, and the 48-47 ballgame was as close as it had been since tipoff.
The Mavericks weathered the immediate storm, yet a Morgan three kept the Beavers within 53-51 with four minutes to play. But then Kevin Krieger took over.
The senior didn’t waste any time answering back through a 3-pointer on the other end, sparking a 10-2 MSU run by contributing eight points himself. By the time BSU caught its breath, Minnesota State had run off with the victory.
“We let Krieger get off a little bit at the end there, but we were playing good enough defense (to win),” Boschee said. “… We had plenty of opportunities (offensively), we just could not get the big shot to get us over the hump.”
Morgan and Max Bjorklund both had 15 points to pace Bemidji State, while Wagner added 12 and Thompson nine. Krieger finished with 20 points for the Mavericks, including 11 in the final five minutes.
BSU loses two seniors to graduation in Logan Bader and Morgan, plus redshirt junior Zach Baumgartner. Bader, who never missed a game for 111 appearances and 107 starts as a Beaver, tied Bryce Tesdahl’s program records in each category on Wednesday.
No. 5 Minnesota State 71, No. 4 Bemidji State 61
BSU 22 39 -- 61
MSU 30 41 -- 71
BEMIDJI STATE (14-13) -- Bjorklund 15, Morgan 15, Wagner 12, Thompson 9, Landwehr 8, Bader 2, Chase 0. Totals 19-54, 16-20, 61.
MINNESOTA STATE (15-14) -- Krieger 20, Holt 15, Kirksey 8, Nixon 8, Kramer 7, Seales 6, Asche 5, Willingham 2, Mack 0. Totals 22-43, 22-28, 71.