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MEN’S BASKETBALL: Travis Bianco, Beavers facing losing-season hardships head on

Despite the hardships of a 7-16 season, Travis Bianco remains upbeat. He enters a room with a smile and speaks of the future with optimism. If not for his BSU apparel, his mood could fool you into thinking his team was bound for the NCAA Tournament.

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Bemidji State senior Travis Bianco brings the ball up the court during a game against Minnesota Duluth on Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- Crouched down and slumped over, Travis Bianco is stuck with an awfully familiar feeling.

“I just hate losing,” Bianco said. “I feel like we work so hard, and we put ourselves in positions to be successful. We get so close, and to not get it is frustrating at the end of the day. To go out on a year like this is frustrating.”

Bianco’s crouch at the end of Bemidji State men’s basketball games has been a common occurrence. The senior guard and Florida native used his final year of eligibility to become a Beaver , but a losing season has felt colder than the Minnesota winter.

“This year was full of trials, things to learn from and grow from,” Bianco said. “I just have to look at what I can do better and move forward in life. Not just basketball, but how I can become a better man every step that I go.”

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Bemidji State senior Travis Bianco (11) shoots a 3-pointer during the first half against Minnesota Duluth on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Despite the hardships of a 7-16 season, Bianco remains upbeat. He enters a room with a smile and speaks of the future with optimism. If not for his BSU apparel, his mood could fool you into thinking his team was bound for the NCAA Tournament.

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“The guys are still busting their butts to get it done,” Bemidji State head coach Mike Boschee said. “Even a guy like Travis, who’s been around the block a few times, is diving on the floor at half court, trying to make a play and save a ball. Those things are all really positive. It shows the spirit and the fight they still have, even with the outcomes they’ve had.”

The Beavers have two games left in the regular season. It’ll require a specific set of circumstances -- without any wiggle room -- for them to sneak into next week’s conference tournament.

First, BSU has to sweep No. 13 Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State. Minnesota Crookston also has to beat SCSU but lose to UMD. That scenario forces Bemidji State into a three-way tie with SCSU and UMC for the sixth seed in the NSIC North Division, and the Beavers would hold the tiebreaker.

But any other result officially locks BSU out of the playoffs.

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Bemidji State senior Travis Bianco (11) controls the ball in the first half against Minot State on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“Hopefully, that Saturday game is playing for something, because that’s still in our sights,” Boschee said. “We have to keep some of that perspective in there. But it really is (about the seniors). It’s about those guys putting in a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the years. It’s coming to an end potentially, and that’s always difficult.”

For Bianco, the reality is setting in. The St. Petersburg product has led Bemidji State in scoring (16 ppg) while ranking second in rebounds (5.8 rpg) and third in assists (1.9 apg). The wins haven’t followed like he expected, but he still has two games left -- which he certainly doesn’t plan to waste.

“We haven’t given up the whole year despite all the negative that’s happened,” Bianco said. “Obviously I want two wins out of it, but this could potentially be my last two games, so I just want to make the most out of it and have fun. And winning’s fun.”

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Bemidji State senior Travis Bianco (11) is praised by his teammates after sinking a 3-pointer in the first half against Winona State on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

The Beavers play No. 13 Minnesota Duluth at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, in Duluth and return to the BSU Gymnasium to host St. Cloud State at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, in the regular season finale.

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Winning has been an insatiable itch for as long as Bianco can remember. And it’s never been more intense than now, with his remaining chances at such a premium.

“Now that it’s coming to an end, I feel like I’ve never wanted it more,” Bianco said. “(I’m) doing every little thing I could possibly do to win a game. I mean, my whole life, I’ve always wanted to win. But right now, it feels a little more special than it used to.”

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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