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MEN’S BASKETBALL: Pregame energy fizzles, Beavers fade into 87-64 loss

Once the Bemidji State men’s basketball team took the floor with Minnesota Duluth on Thursday night at the BSU Gymnasium, the No. 17 Bulldogs zapped all that energy out of the building.

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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 -- Pregame warmups bubbled with energy. Emphatic dunks, spirited high-fives and even a battle cry or two.

But once the Bemidji State men’s basketball team took the floor with Minnesota Duluth on Thursday night at the BSU Gymnasium, the No. 17 Bulldogs zapped all that energy out of the building.

UMD steamrolled the Beavers 87-64 behind a red-hot start, relegating Bemidji State to hands on hips and frustrated spirits.

“If we’re going to act like we have all that energy, we’ve got to be able to put it forth once the game starts too,” senior guard Mohamed Kone said. “We can’t just have the energy in the beginning and talk, then go into the game and not do nothing.”

Minnesota Duluth (8-0, 2-0 NSIC) scored 13 of the first 15 points and never looked back. The Bulldogs built up a 25-7 lead in 7:22 behind a deadly 3-point attack, and BSU (3-3, 0-2 NSIC) slogged through offensive hardships all the way to a 43-27 deficit by the break.

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Bemidji State senior Cody Landwehr (15) tries to make a move in the post during the first half against Minnesota Duluth on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

At halftime, fans tried to diagnose the problems with one another in the main concourse. They lamented UMD’s scorching offense and the Beavers shying away from contact inside, trying to find solutions as the team did the same inside the locker room.

“Our first-half energy wasn’t there,” Kone said. “That’s how we play: We bring that swag, that energy. We started to do that in the beginning of the second half.”

Kone brought the juice as part of Bemidji State’s 15-6 burst to open the second half. He slammed home a posterizing and-one dunk in transition to get the game within 10, screaming with the crowd before his feet even hit the floor.

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The Beavers react to Mohamed Kone's (right) dunk during the second half against Minnesota Duluth on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium. (Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer)

Soon after, Derek Thompson scored on a turnaround in the post to tighten things further at 49-42 with 15:50 to play. But Bemidji State never got closer.

Minnesota Duluth escaped with a 15-2 run, bringing on a 68-48 lead that held with room to spare over the final 10 minutes.

“We know what we’re capable of, what we can do,” Kone said. “We came out knowing that we had to be a better team in the second half. We showed sparks of it… but we have to be able to maintain that.”

John Sutherland finished with a team-high 16 points for BSU in his first game against the Bulldogs since transferring from UMD over the offseason. Travis Bianco was also in double figures with 10 points, while Kone posted nine points, six rebounds and six assists.

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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)

Drew Blair poured in 23 for Minnesota Duluth, while Austin Andrews and Joshua Brown chipped in 16 apiece.

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And while nobody likes to lose, Kone is still keeping his cool along with some perspective.

“What we watch in film, we have to learn from that and continue to grow,” he said. “That’s the only way we’re going to be better. I trust my guys, I trust my team. I’ll fight for them to the end. I know for a fact we’ll bounce back.”

The Beavers will next hit the road for a 2 p.m. tipoff at St. Cloud State on Saturday, Dec. 4.

Minnesota Duluth 87, Bemidji State 64

UMD 43 44 -- 87

BSU 27 37 -- 64

MINNESOTA DULUTH (8-0, 2-0 NSIC) -- Blair 23, Andrews 16, Brown 16, Shields 12, Strong 8, Katona 6, Meister 2, Middleton 2, Watts 2. Totals 35-68 FGs, 10-25 3-pt. FGs, 7-12 FTs.

BEMIDJI STATE (3-3, 0-2 NSIC) -- Sutherland 16, Bianco 10, Behrendt 9, Kone 9, Thompson 7, Albrecht 6, Ewefada 5, Landwehr 2. Totals 23-54 FGs, 6-17 3-pt. FGs, 12-19 FTs.

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