Junior point guard Bryce Tesdahl (Crosby, Minn.) struggled to find his game in the opening game of the season Tuesday, but responded like good players do and tallied 23 points and 10 assists Wednesday to lead the Bemidji State men’s basketball team to a 84-63 victory at Finlandia University. BSU got scoring from 10 different players in the nonconference contest that gave the Beavers their first win of the season.
“We made solid improvements from game one to game two,” said head coach Matt Bowen. “I really liked our resiliency. There were a couple of times Finlandia chipped away at our lead, but we never panicked or folded, which is not easy to do on the road, to allow us to come away with the win. I was not happy with Bryce on Tuesday, but tonight he demonstrated great leadership. He took care of the floor, put people in the right positions to score and got the entire team involved in the offense.”
The double-double for Tesdahl was the second of his career. The 10 assists marks the third time in his career he eclipsed double digits in the assist category. The mark ties Tesdahl for ninth on the BSU single-game charts for assists in a game with himself in a game against Finlandia (2/16/10) last season and James Robinson (vs SW Minnesota State, 2/12/05). Last season he had an 11 and 10 assist games. Tesdahl now has 235 assists in his career to move into fifth on BSU’s career assists chart. He surpassed Teaser Sweeney (1989-93) and is 13 assists shy of taking over the No. 3 spot.
The two teams traded buckets through the first six minutes of the game with BSU finding themselves down 8-7 with 14:08 remaining in the first half. The Beavers then settled in and rattled off 11 straight points to own an 18-8 lead with 10:10 showing on the game clock. During the run junior transfer James Ellisor (Glendale, Ariz.) and sophomore Burke Lendl (G/F, St. Michael, Minn.) tallied four points, two each on the fast break after recording steals. Finlandia responded with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to four, but the Beavers were able to mirror the run to retain the 10 point advantage.
The two teams continued to trade little runs through the rest of the first half with the BSU lead going as small as seven and as large as 12. The 12 point lead is what the Beavers took into halftime, owning a 39-27 advantage.
A lay-up from lone senior Patrick Cassidy (F, St. Paul, Minn.) gave the Beavers a 14 point lead at 45-31 2:30 into the second half, but then the Lions took over the game. Finlandia put together a 15-4 run during a four minute time span to shred the BSU lead down to three. After trading baskets, two free throws from Tesdahl made the game a five point difference with 12:25 showing on the clock. The two points started a 10-2 run by the Beavers that gained them an 11 point lead that were capped off with 3-pointers from freshman Jake Schalow (G, Kaukauna, Wis.) and Ellisor.
With too much pride, the Lions still didn’t back down and responded with a 5-0 run to make the score 61-55 with 8:03 left. The see-saw matched continued when BSU scored six straight, emphatically retaking the 12 point lead with two dunks from Ellisor. After the run, the playground got quiet and the see-saw remain tilted with the Beavers owning the top spot. With every Finlandia hoop, BSU countered and the lead never slipped into single digits. Last season BSU finished fifth in the nation in free throws, proving why Wednesday as it made 6-of-7 in the game’s last five minutes and 26-of-29 in the contest for a 89.7 percentage.
Ellisor ended with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting, adding six rebounds that tied for a team-high. Cassidy recorded back-to-back games in double figures with 13 points.