By: Martin Schlegel
After a come-from-behind victory the previous night, MSUM fell short against Bemidji State losing 82-81 on Saturday night in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference clash.
Needing one last defensive stop to preserve its 1-point lead with 20.8 seconds remaining, the Dragons (4-6, 2-2 NSIC) just couldn’t prevent the Beavers (5-5, 2-3 NSIC) from driving to the hoop.
Bemidji State freshman Derek Thompson, who finished with a game-high 20 points, got a pass in the paint looking for a layup. His first attempt missed as two players fell down in front of him, Thompson got the ball back and made his second try to give the Beavers an 82-81 lead.
“They won the game by doing the same thing that they did the whole second half,” Dragons head coach Chad Walthall said. “We probably could have faked and stunted down there and blocked a little for our guys. Credit to them, they hung tough.”
Thompson’s put-back fell with 6 seconds left. The Dragons moved the ball quickly to Tanner Kretchman on the other end, who pulled up for a potential game-winning shot with 2 seconds left, but it didn’t fall in the Dragons favor.
“We did have a couple good looks,” Walthall said. “Tanner’s the guy to shoot them and they didn’t go in. If he makes them we win, that’s just part of the deal. Last night they fell, tonight they didn’t.”
Down by six points with 4:42 left in the game, MSUM rallied back. Kretchman hit a three-pointer. Johnny Beeninga got a steal and A.J. Nywesh drove to the hoop to make it a 1-point game with 3:51 remaining. A timeout was called and the Dragons knew, down by one, the team needed crucial defensive stops.
“It just came down to us getting stops and we were unable to do it,” Dragons sophomore guard Evan Hines said. “Coach called a timeout telling us, ‘we need stops, we need stops.’ We just couldn’t string them together.”
“(Bemidji State) was getting layup after layup, everything was in the lane,” Walthall said. “Sometimes on second nights of doubleheaders, nobody can stop each other. The legs aren’t as strong. It’s almost like who can score last sometimes. We said, ‘everything is in the lane for them. They’re trying to do everything they can to get something at the rim. Hey, we just got to protect more and make them kick.’ For whatever reason, we weren’t adjusting enough.”
The Dragons jumped out to an early 8-0 lead but the Beavers countered with a 20-5 run in about a five-minute span. Hines said the team knows it can score but needed to play stronger defense.
“It all starts on the defensive end,” Hines said. “Our offense is going to come no matter what… We can all score but I don’t think in this league you can outmatch someone with just straight offense. You have to do it on both ends and we got to figure it out. We can all shoot but if we keep letting them shoot as well, it’s canceling out.”
Walthall added that the team gave a valiant effort but learned a lot from the loss.
“Our Saturday defensive effort hasn’t been nearly as good as our Friday’s,” Walthall said. “We’ve got to somehow adjust that, and do what we can to make sure we’re strong enough and fresh enough to keep that competitive. I think they really wanted to, but for whatever reason, we didn’t have the juice. Sometimes when you don’t have the juice, your mind kind of goes too.”