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MEN’S BASKETBALL: Beavers starting to ‘figure out our identity’ ahead of South swing

If basketball seasons had grades, the Bemidji State men’s basketball team would be sitting around a “C, C+” right now.

120421.S.BP.BSUMBB Mohamed Kone.JPG
Bemidji State senior Mohamed Kone (3) defends the ball during the first half against Minnesota Duluth on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- If basketball seasons had grades, the Bemidji State men’s basketball team would be sitting around a “C, C+” right now.

That’s according to head coach Mike Boschee, who assessed his 6-6 team as “right in the middle somewhere.” But he still sees the potential for what his group can do.

“We’re not where we need to be. But I think there’s a great deal of intent to get there,” Boschee said. “And we’re optimistic we can still be a really good team. We’ll keep clawing to try to get there.”

The Beavers are 3-5 in conference play so far, which is seventh in the NSIC North Division and 14th overall in the league. But BSU still believes there’s plenty of opportunity to climb.

“We’re starting to figure out what we have to do to be successful as a team,” senior Mohamed Kone said. “We’re starting to figure out what we need to do to win games. I feel like we flipped that corner when we played Minot and Mary. We started to figure out our identity, and it’s started to come alive.”

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Bemidji State has won two of its past three games -- blowout wins over U-Mary and Minnesota Crookston with a two-point loss to Minot State sandwiched in between.

But now comes a new type of test. The Beavers are venturing into cross-division play for eight games against the NSIC South, matching up with teams they haven’t seen in two years. Although BSU faced Minnesota State last season, the Mavericks were the only South team Bemidji State played due to a shortened season.

But Boschee doesn’t believe it’ll be too unfamiliar this time around.

“There’s so much technology these days that we get a pretty good feel for what these teams are all about,” he said. “Coaches will adapt and they’ll tweak things a little bit, but their philosophies will usually stay somewhat pretty consistent. We’ve got a pretty good feel for both what Upper Iowa and Winona State will do.”

The Beavers also face a ranked opponent in the Peacocks, who enter No. 19 in the country.

“I feel like, to me, it’s going to be another game,” Kone said. “It’s going to be nice to see how the South plays, but I’m just excited to play another game and see what we can do versus a whole new different opponent.”

The opening game against Winona State tips off at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7, and the encore will be at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, both at the BSU Gymnasium. Kone is determined to make the most of his chances in a season passing by quickly.

“We were just in preseason,” he said. “Preseason came and went by so fast, and now we’re already toward the middle of the season. It cracks down now. Every game matters, so we have to start being able to take some wins here.”

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That’s especially true now, as the NSIC changed its format for the postseason tournament again this year. Now, only the top six teams in each division will make the NSIC Tournament. The top two seeds receive byes, while the bottom two teams won’t make the field.

That means Bemidji State needs to make up ground if it wants to extend its season beyond what’s already on the calendar. Despite a middle-of-the-pack grade, Boschee still thinks he has a group that can do it.

“The guys are great,” he said. “Just watching practice (Tuesday), there was a lot of enthusiasm and energy, having a good time. I think we’re all locked in and trying to be as good as we can be.”

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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The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.