MEN’S BASKETBALL: BSU meets Mavs in double-sided rematch
BEMIDJI -- If anyone can be a dark horse in the NSIC Tournament, the Bemidji State men’s basketball team wants the leading role.
“We’re about as confident as we can get,” senior forward Logan Bader said. “We’ve got a lot of guys shooting the ball well. Defense has looked a lot better. I think everyone’s ready to go and knows we can get a win.”
BSU opens up what it hopes will be an extended NSIC Tournament run at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, in Mankato. The Beavers have won six of seven games in February and will gun for one more against the only team that’s gotten the better of them during the stretch.
“Our guys know going in that we’ve got to play pretty well,” Bemidji State head coach Mike Boschee said. “(Minnesota State) pretty much spanked us down at their place. We weren’t at our best. We were in one of those phases where we were trying to figure ourselves out a little bit again, but we know we’ve got to be good.”
The Mavericks won the regular-season meeting on Feb. 8 by an 87-60 decision, which was BSU’s worst loss of the year. But that same gym is where the Beavers won its playoff opener in 2019, a reminder that sure doesn’t hurt as they make their return.
“Going into a big program and a big gym like they have, it’s always nice to be able to know what you can do,” sophomore guard Max Bjorklund said. “… With our six wins in the last seven games and coming off two huge wins this weekend, we’re going to have a lot of confidence going into Mankato.”
Bemidji State (14-12, 11-11 NSIC) capped the regular season at home with Friday’s 86-65 win over St. Cloud State and Saturday’s 83-76 win over Minnesota Duluth. BSU earned the North Division’s No. 4 seed but will be the one to hit the road, as the fifth-seeded Mavericks (14-14, 12-10 NSIC) eked out one more conference win from the South Division.
As the Beavers head back to Mankato, another rematch provides an opportunity for redemption for both sides.
“It gives us a little confidence, knowing what we did there last year,” Bader said. “We got beat pretty bad the first time this year, but I think we’re all confident that we can go in there and get a big win. We just have to play a lot better, and I think we’re playing a lot better down the stretch here.”
Five Beavers enter in with double-digit scoring averages. Junior guard Nick Wagner leads the bunch at 14.8 points per game, while Ja Morgan (14.4), Derek Thompson (14.3), Bjorklund (13.0) and Bader (11.4) follow suit. Bader’s 7.0 average leads BSU on the boards, and Morgan’s 5.8 assists and 1.5 steals both stand as team highs.
“We know that we can compete with anybody in the league,” Boschee said. “The guys understand that this league is pretty dang balanced. Even the bottom teams can beat the top teams if they don’t show up and play well. It comes back to the fact that, if you want to advance, you’ve got to play well.”
Beavers likely to hit more milestones
Bemidji State is likely to reach three more milestones Wednesday.
Derek Thompson enters at 995 career points, and five more would make him the 19th member of BSU’s 1,000 Point Club. If he does so this season, he would become the first junior to reach 1,000 points since all-time scoring leader David Lee did so (1986-87) and would be believed to be just the second junior ever.
Logan Bader is also poised to tie Bryce Tesdahl for the program’s most games played (111) and games started (107) in a career. Bader, who has never missed a game as a Beaver, will tie Tesdahl in both categories with a start Wednesday.
And finally, Nick Wagner stands one 3-pointer shy of Adam Daley’s single-single makes record. Wagner has drained 78 triples this season and is on the cusp of passing Daley’s 2003-04 benchmark of 79.