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MEN’S BASKETBALL: Beavers eliminated from playoff race after 88-73 loss

While the NSIC Tournament will field the top six teams from each division this season, the Beavers (7-17, 4-16 NSIC) can now finish no higher than seventh in the North Division standings.

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Bemidji State Beavers

DULUTH -- The Bemidji State men’s basketball team faced no small challenge on Thursday, needing to beat the No. 13 team in the country in order to keep its postseason hopes alive.

Minnesota Duluth was having none of it, though, as the Bulldogs controlled the whole game and eliminated BSU from the playoff race with an 88-73 win in Duluth.

While the NSIC Tournament will field the top six teams from each division this season, the Beavers (7-17, 4-16 NSIC) can now finish no higher than seventh in the North Division standings. Thursday’s defeat was the team’s 11th loss in their past 12 games.

UMD (22-4, 15-4 NSIC) assumed control early, using a 16-0 run to leave Bemidji State in the dust. The spurt gave Minnesota Duluth a 22-8 lead within seven minutes, and they never trailed again.

The Bulldogs also posted a 10-0 run shortly thereafter. In all, the two runs were part of a lopsided 28-5 stretch over an eight-minute span, which sunk BSU into a 34-13 deficit.

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To their credit, the Beavers answered with a 9-0 run to climb back into contention. Derek Thompson produced 15 more first-half points, which slashed the difference to 48-37 by halftime.

Travis Bianco even slimmed the deficit to 50-43 with a 3-pointer early in the second half, and it looked like Bemidji State may make a run. But an ensuing 12-2 burst from Minnesota Duluth put an end to any rumblings of a rally.

Thompson’s 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining cut the deficit back down to 10 at 81-71, but BSU never got back within single digits in the ultimate 15-point loss.

Thompson finished with a game-high 26 points, while Bianco had 17. John Sutherland, a UMD transfer, posted a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double against his former team.

Joshua Brown and Drew Blair each racked up 20 points to lead the Bulldogs, while Charlie Katona and Austin Andrews added 19 and 16 points, respectively.

The Beavers will finish the 2021-22 season against St. Cloud State at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, at the BSU Gymnasium. They’ll honor four graduating seniors in Tyler Behrendt, Gare Ewefada, Bianco and Thompson.

Minnesota Duluth 88, Bemidji State 73

BSU 37 36 -- 73

UMD 48 40 -- 88

BEMIDJI STATE (7-17, 4-16 NSIC) -- Thompson 26, Bianco 17, Sutherland 13, Behrendt 8, Kone 7, Landwehr 2. Totals: 30-64 FGs, 9-20 3-pt. FGs, 4-11 FTs.

MINNESOTA DULUTH (22-4, 15-4 NSIC) -- Blair 20, Brown 20, Katona 19, Andrews 16, Shields 7, Middleton 4, Strong 2. Totals: 36-71 FGs, 9-22 3-pt. FGs, 7-11 FTs.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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