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BASKETBALL: Beavers excelling from downtown despite 3-point line rule change

Curving around the hoop from a distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches, a new 3-point line has pushed downtown a little further out this season. But the Beavers say the change hasn’t hampered them all that much.

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The Bemidji State basketball teams are playing this season with a 3-point line that has moved back to the international distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State basketball court has some fresh paint on it.

Curving around the hoop from a distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches, a new 3-point line has pushed downtown a little further out this season. But the Beavers say the change hasn’t hampered them all that much.

“It was a little bit of a difference, but once you get used to it, it’s not too much different,” women’s senior Sydney Zerr said. “I don’t think it’s affected us that much this year.”

Up until this year, the 3-point line was at 20 feet, 9 inches. It’s now 22-1.75 at the top of the key and 21-7.875 in the corners, which matches the length of the international arc. The rule change was first installed at the Division I level in 2019-20 and arrived in Divisions II and III this winter. So, perhaps now more than ever, a sharpshooter is a weapon that many teams want.

“If you’re a 3-point shooter and you can shoot at a high percentage, you’re a hot commodity,” BSU men’s head coach Mike Boschee said. “If you can handle it, pass it and shoot it, I think you’re going to find your way onto a lot of good basketball teams and be someone who’s on the court quite a bit.”

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Bemidji State senior Tyler Behrendt (12) shoots a 3-pointer from the corner during a game against Minnesota Duluth on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Originally, the 3-point line was scheduled to move back in 2020-21, but pandemic turbulence delayed those plans in D-II and D-III by a year. The Beavers may be facing the change for the first time, but men’s senior Tyler Behrendt isn’t.

“At my old school, we had it at this 3-point line, so I’m used to it,” said Behrendt, who transferred in from Division I Wisconsin-Milwaukee after 2019-20. “And I always stand two, three feet off the line anyways, so I’m already there.”

Of course, there’s an adjustment period when the line moves back by 16.75 inches. But it’s a transition that women’s head coach Chelsea DeVille said her team has tackled well.

“The percentages were really different early in the year for a lot of teams. It took a little adjusting,” DeVille said. “… The type of threes we take are high-percentage, so I think that’s why we didn’t dip as much as other teams we were playing. We have great shooters, but (how) we get them is what helps with our percentages.”

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Bemidji State senior Sydney Zerr (20) shoots a 3-pointer during a game against Winona State on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

That sentiment rings ever so true for Zerr, who ranks 19th in the nation by shooting 45.6% from deep. Maddie Schires is also 25th at 44.3% , and the Beavers rank 17th in the country by shooting 36.3% as a team.

“I don’t think a lot’s changed,” Zerr said. “It’s just our mentality: If I’m open, knock it down. It’s the same for everyone. It’s been really fun. And I think we all feed off each other. If one person’s making them, then we keep it rolling.”

The BSU men are in a more crowded field, shooting it at 37.6% but ranking 54th in Division II. Still, an above-average clip helps space the floor and provide lanes for attackers.

“It’s vital to our team’s success, especially with guards like Gare (Ewefada) and Momo (Kone),” Behrendt said. “They need to be able to drive. So people like me, Travis (Bianco), Derek (Thompson), being able to space the floor and give them driving lane opportunities, it’s pretty big. The more we hit, the better.”

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Oddly enough, shots are falling from 3-point range more frequently this season for both teams. The men are converting at their second-best rate since 2013-14, while the women’s figure is its best since 1999-00.

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Bemidji State senior Derek Thompson (5) shoots a 3-pointer during a game against Winona State on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

And that’s music to the ears of teams in today’s game, playing in an age where the 3-point shot has become so revolutionary.

“Seeing the three going in is just an energy booster,” DeVille said. “The bench just gets hyped. Threes are more fun, right? They just seem flashier. It’s definitely contagious.”

Men lose Friday game to COVID-19 procedures

This weekend’s schedule of road games has been hit by the pandemic.

The BSU men’s game against Minnesota State, originally set for Friday, Jan. 14, was canceled due to COVID-19 within the Mavericks program.

The women’s game in Mankato is still on, though the start time has been moved up to 6 p.m.

Both teams are still scheduled to face Concordia-St. Paul on Saturday, Jan. 15. The men tip off at 3:30 p.m. and the women follow at 5:30 p.m., both in St. Paul.

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and 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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