“On the defense end we failed ourselves,” said head coach Matt Bowen. “We could not stop their offence either if we played man-to-man or zone defense. We couldn’t come up with stops at crucial times.”
The last five minutes of play had plenty of drama, as the Beavers tried to regain a lead they had owned the majority of the game. Down eight, the biggest deficit of the game for BSU, at 71-63 with 4:02 left, BSU went on a 11-3 run to knot the contest 74-74 with 1:30 showing on the game clock. During the run, five different Beavers recorded points, which included a clutch 3-pointer from junior guard Bryce Tesdahl (Crosby, Minn.) that put BSU within two.
Two sophomore forward Lance Rongstad (Eleva, Wis.) free throws tied the game for the 10h time in the game, but on the ensuing UIU possession, Peacock guard Alex Kramer knocked down the most important 3-pointer of Upper Iowa’s early season to put the road team up 77-74. As the Beavers were bringing the ball up, the UIU pressure defense forced a Tesdahl turnover at mid-court that caused an uproar at the BSU Gymnasium, thinking their captain point guard was fouled. The official wasn’t about to change his mind and it was Peacock ball. With under a minute to play, the Beavers opted to play defense and look for a stop and a chance to tie the game, but another Peacock 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining put BSU into a deep hole. Tesdahl put up a prayer 3-pointer to get the game back to a one possession game, but a miss and Peacock rebound forced a Beaver foul. Two free throws later the final nail was in the coffin. Two deep 3-pointers by Tesdahl and junior Jake Lindstrom (G, Cottage Grove, Minn.), respectfully, in the final six seconds were moot and the Peacocks went on to win.
“We’ve been in games like this all this year and all last year,” Rongstad said. “We just continually let little plays that shouldn’t happen, happen and we lose close games time and time again. Right now we aren’t clicking the way we want to and we have to get back to working on that on Tuesday.”
The scored remained tight through the first half as both teams shot above 50 percent. It was a quick back-and-forth battle during the first 16 minutes, then a Tesdahl dribble-drive jumper in the paint gave the Beavers a 30-29 lead. BSU never relinquished the lead after bucket, gaining an advantage as large as six on two occasions. The Beavers owned a 40-34 lead with 1:51 remaining in the half after Tesdahl converted on a 3-point play. BSU then failed to score for the last minutes of the half and a 4-0 run by UIU made the score at the break 40-38. Junior James Ellisor (F, Glendale, Ariz.) scored the first eight points for BSU and finished the half with 13 points, tied for the team-lead with Rongstad.
The second half started sloppy for both teams, as BSU was winning the turnover category five to three. Five minutes into the half, a Peacock lay-up tied the contest at 44-44. On the ensuing BSU possession, Rongstad was fouled and knocked down both free throws to give the home team the lead. The teams traded baskets until a Tesdahl jumper earned the Beavers a 48-46 lead with 13:48 left in regulation. BSU kept the lead until a 3-pointer from UIU’s Brad Arnold spun around the rim three times before falling to knot the game 59-59 with 8:12 left.
The tie was broken on a sophomore forward Mason Walters (Milton, Wis.) free throw a minute later, but the lead didn’t last long, as UIU converted on a deep 3-pointer to take its first lead of the game since early in the first half. The Peacocks added to the lead with a turnover and a fastbreak lay-up to grab a 64-60 advantage, forcing a BSU timeout.
BSU failed to score out of the timeout and the Peacocks took advantage with a lay-up to own their largest lead of the game at six. Senior Patrick Cassidy (F, St. Paul, Minn.) responded with a 3-point play to slice the deficit in half with 5:16 left, setting-up the events of the final five minutes.
Rongstad led all players with a season-high 22 points, shooting 5-of-6 from the field, 2-of-2 from downtown and 10-of-11 from the charity stripe. He also added eight rebounds in 34 minutes of work. Ellisor recorded his second double-double of the season, scoring 21 points and adding 11 rebounds. He shot 70 percent from the field and was 7-of-8 from the line. Tesdahl scored 16 for BSU, adding five assists. Cassidy scored 13 points to round out the BSU players in double-figures.
Both teams shot above 50 percent from the floor with Bemidji State gaining the edge 52.1%-51.8%. BSU shot the ball better from 3-point land, but UIU made more with nine. The Beavers continued their poised free throw shooting, going 24-for-28 (85.7%).
The Beavers now begin their NSIC road season, starting with Northern State University Dec. 17 at 8 p.m.
Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).