When the game was in the balance Saturday, the Bemidji State men's basketball team proved why it's sitting atop the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division.
BSU turned a tie game with 6:47 remaining into a comfortable 84-68 victory over Minot State University in front of 1,123 at the MSU Dome.
"We got the ball to the people that we wanted to get it to late," BSU coach Mike Boschee said. "Our team was willing to do that and we made free throws and made plays."
Minot State University sophomore Dominique McDonald splits a pair of Bemidji State defenders on Saturday at the MSU Dome.
One of those go-to players was 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior Zach Noreen, who scored eight of his 21 points after MSU tied the game.
"He's certainly a big piece of the puzzle because he can score on the low block," Boschee said. "When you have a guy that can do that consistently no matter who's matched up with him, it provides opportunities for a lot of other guys as well."
Bemidji (14-4 overall, 11-3 NSIC) connected on 21 of 23 free throws and outrebounded MSU 33-22. Those advantages were too much to overcome for MSU, which missed the front end of two one-and-one opportunities in the final four minutes.
"For 35 minutes, I thought it was two teams that were really competing hard," MSU coach Matt Murken said. "It was a really physical game. We had a stretch around the six-minute mark where we had a missed layup, a missed front end of a one-and-one, and we had a charge called against us and that's basketball."
BSU's top four scorers all showed up, each scoring at least 15 points. Junior wing Brock Lutes led the way with 23, senior shooting guard Jake Schalow added 18 and senior forward Maxie Rosenbloom recorded 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The firepower of BSU offset another strong offensive performance from MSU, which shot 49 percent and placed four scorers in double figures. Seniors Chris East and E.J. Williams had 13 apiece to lead Minot State.
"The last couple of weeks we've taken great steps forward offensively in terms of making it easy for each other, sharing the basketball and getting great shots for our teammates whether it's inside or outside," Murken said. "We were probably good enough on that end ... but on the defensive end, we weren't great tonight. They shot a high percentage and a lot of free throws and it's hard to overcome that."
MSU plays at Concordia-St. Paul (5-13, 2-12) on Saturday.