MEN’S BASKETBALL: Stage is set to determine BSU’s playoff fate

022220.S.BP.BSUMBB Nick Wagner.jpg
Bemidji State junior Nick Wagner attacks off the dribble during a Feb. 1 win over Southwest Minnesota State at the BSU Gymnasium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- And it all comes down to this for the Bemidji State men’s basketball team.

“If you had to pick a game that you’d think Bemidji State gets fired up for in all sports, St. Cloud would be the one,” BSU head coach Mike Boschee said. “It’s another game where we’re going to do everything we can to be as good as we possibly can.

“It seems like it’s always a physical game, it seems like it’s always an intense game. Hopefully it’s that case again.”

The Beavers (12-12, 9-11 NSIC) wrap up the regular season this weekend, and Friday’s matchup with SCSU has lots on the line. The winner will assume the No. 4 seed in the division standings with one game remaining and can keep alive hopes of hosting a playoff game.

“Every game is big. Especially this close to the end of the year, with the playoffs coming up,” junior guard Nick Wagner said. “Not only for seeding, but just to have a good run going into the playoffs is huge, too. Seeding, we try not to worry about it too much because we know we don’t have complete control over that. But we do have complete control over how we play Friday and Saturday night.”


Bemidji State will need a little bit of help to stay home for the postseason opener. Even if BSU earns the North’s No. 4 seed, the South’s No. 5 seed could still host the Beavers. In 2017-18, the NSIC created an exception that a lower-seeded team can host a higher-seeded team if it has a better conference record. (The rule sent fourth-seeded Bemidji State on the road that year.)

The math is simple this weekend: The Beavers will host a playoff game only if they go 2-0 and Augustana goes 0-2.

“I don’t worry about the things that I can’t control. I was taught that a long time ago,” Boschee said. “I’m just trying to control what we can, and that’s our guys. The psyche of them, the toughness of them, the desire to be good. That’s kind of what I focus on.”

BSU hosts St. Cloud State (13-13, 10-10 NSIC) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, and Minnesota Duluth (19-7, 14-6 NSIC) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 for Senior Day.

The Vikings (16-10, 11-9 NSIC) travel to first-place Sioux Falls on Friday and last-place Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday.

“All year, (you) try to focus on what you can do,” Wagner said. He acknowledged the scenarios and the stakes, but “with Augie, there’s obviously nothing we can do, so just kind of ignore it and figure it out Saturday night after the game.”

As the intensity ramps up, Wagner said this is what it’s all about.

“Playoffs are, of course, a little bit stressful at times. That’s, in part, what makes it a lot of fun: trying to fight for a better seed, fight for a home game. Now, everybody knows what everybody has. Every game, we’ve already played them one time before. It’s a little more exciting playing the same teams again (with) a little more on the line this time.”


Thompson nearing 1,000

Derek Thompson is inching closer to joining the Bemidji State 1,000 Point Club as its 19th member.

Thompson, a junior forward from Cold Spring, has 950 career points entering the weekend. He has two regular season games, plus at least one playoff game, to join Logan Bader as newcomers to the club this season. Bader hit the benchmark on Feb. 7.

If Thompson can reach the milestone 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.

Wagner hits 3-point record

Wagner set the program record for 3-point attempts during Friday’s win over U-Mary. Wagner has shot the ball 174 times from behind the arc heading into this weekend, eclipsing Adam Daley’s mark of 165 from the 2003-04 season.

Wagner has shot 40.8 percent from downtown this year (71-174). His 71 makes are eight shy of Daley’s single-season 3-point makes record.

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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