MEN’S BASKETBALL: BSU convincingly snaps 7-game skid, topping SMSU 78-64

020520.S.BP.BSUMBB Max Bjorklund.jpg
Bemidji State sophomore Max Bjorklund (11) evades Southwest Minnesota State’s Andy Stafford (10) to score on Saturday at the BSU Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Max Bjorklund said it was very needed. Head coach Mike Boschee ventured as far as “desperately.” But, truthfully, there aren’t many words to describe what victory feels like for the first time in eight games.

“It was desperately needed,” Boschee said. “You have such a good group of guys, and you want them to be successful. They just keep working hard. They keep on grinding. They want to be good.”

The Bemidji State men’s basketball team finally felt the sun again after a gloomy seven-game losing streak, dominating Southwest Minnesota State 78-64 on Saturday at the BSU Gymnasium.

“It’s a great feeling,” Bjorklund said. “Hopefully this can get us back on track.”

The Beavers largely had their way against the Mustangs, separating late in the first half and building up an insurmountable advantage from then on.


“In previous games, we’ve had leads but let the other teams get back into it,” Bjorklund said. “This game, we were really trying to step on the pedal all game, not let up, play hard defense, rebound the ball and keep the throttle down.”

Bemidji State (9-11, 6-10 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) also shrugged off Friday’s offensive funk in a hurry, flipping the narrative with a 52.1-percent shooting performance that included a 13-for-25 clip from downtown.

“We’ve been good offensively all year, so it’s not a surprise. But it was definitely needed,” Boschee said. “Southwest is a good ball club with a lot of talented players. It was fun watching them play.”

Bjorklund had the hot hand for much of the night, tying a career high by racking up 23 points while playing all 40 minutes.

“My teammates did a great job of kicking the ball out to me and finding me,” the sophomore guard said. “They could tell I got hot for a little bit, so they were looking for me. My coaches did a good job calling plays for me, and I just knocked them down.”

The Mustangs (7-15, 4-12 NSIC) played to a 20-20 draw midway through the first half, but BSU separated by claiming nine of the next 11 points.

Nick Wagner later drained a deep 3-pointer with eight seconds left in the half, giving the Beavers their largest lead at a dozen and a 41-29 halftime edge. But they didn’t settle out of the locker room.

“It didn’t matter what the score was,” Boschee said. “We talked about it at halftime: We wanted to play as well as we possibly could. We built the lead.”


020520.S.BP.BSUMBB Nick Wagner.jpg
Bemidji State junior Nick Wagner (30) drives to the hoop in Saturday’s game against Southwest Minnesota State at the BSU Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The difference grew as high as 23 when Wagner turned a hesitation drive into a kiss off the glass, putting Bemidji State in front 65-42 with 8:37 remaining. The Beavers hit a bit of a lull toward the finish, but they had a secure lead to bank on regardless.

“I didn’t necessarily like part of the finish with a turnover, a 10-second (backcourt) violation and missed bonus (free throw),” Boschee said. “I really wanted to put a stamp on the game and really blow them out. But I’m very pleased with the performance. A lot of guys stepped up tonight. It was really nice to see.”

Wagner produced 18 points alongside Bjorklund’s 23, while Griffin Chase (11) and Logan Bader (10) also finished in double figures. Bader’s total brings him up to 992 points in his career, and his nine rebounds add up to 596 as a Beaver.

Nick Dufault poured in 27 points for SMSU, while Kenny Byers added another 17.

Bemidji State hits the hardwood once more against Concordia-St. Paul at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, in St. Paul.

Bemidji State 78, SMSU 64


SMSU 29 35 -- 64

BSU 41 37 -- 78

SMSU (7-15, 4-12 NSIC) -- Dufault 27, Byers 17, Phipps 8, McCray 4, Stafford 4, Baker Magrath 2, Kramer 2, Dayman 0. Totals 24-57, 8-8, 64.

BEMIDJI STATE (8-11, 6-10 NSIC) -- Bjorklund 23, Wagner 18, Chase 11, Bader 10, Thompson 9, Landwehr 4, Baumgartner 3. Totals 25-48, 15-19, 78.

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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