It was efficient ball movement and a career-high 22 points from sophomore forward Lucas Wendt that helped lift Bemidji State University men’s basketball to an 88-70 win Friday night against Valley City State University at BSU Gymnasium. The Beavers improve to 1-2 on the season after dishing out 21 assists compared to nine turnovers in the home opener against the Vikings (2-4).
“It was a good team win.” Head Coach Mike Boschee said. “I felt like on both sides of the ball we played pretty well for long stretches of time, but this team has a lot of room for improvement still.”
The Beavers were fueled to a quick first half lead behind the 3-point shooting of senior guards Sharif Black and Christian Pekarek. Black’s first long-range shot of the night put BSU up, 10-5, followed by a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Jai’Vionne Green that gave Bemidji State a four-point, 13-9, lead. The shot by Green was the largest lead for BSU the remainder of the first half.
Valley City State followed Green’s first 3-pointer of the night with an 8-0 run, that was halted by Green’s second field goal from beyond the arc seven minutes into play. The Vikings pulled ahead again by four points for the second time of the night, which would be their largest lead of the first half. Both teams swapped leads throughout the first half, while Bemidji State went into halftime with a 37-35 advantage.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Green and Wendt put the Beavers on a quick 6-0 run out of the second half gate to go up, 43-35. Wendt, on his third attempt and conversion from 3-point range, kept the BSU lead above five three minutes into the second half.
“Lucas (Wendt) had a lot of energy for us, Christian (Pekarek) had seven assists to one turnover which was huge, as well as Aage (Rovney) with five assists to one turnover.” Boschee said. “The total assist-to-turnover ratio for us created a lot of good opportunities.”
An 8-0 run by the Beavers two minutes later gave them their first double-digit lead of the night, 56-45. Sophomore forwards Logan Bader and Kyle Sorenson each hit their first 3-pointers of the night to cap the run.
Freshman guard Mike Shepski sparked BSU’s push to gain the final advantage while scoring the first two of a 12-2 run over VCSU. The scoring run lasted over three minutes while Pekarek added five of the 12 points. Freshman guard Drew Yetka’s first 3-pointer of the night ended the run and gave BSU a 17-point, 70-53 lead.
“We shot the ball well from behind the 3-point line, especially in the second half,” Boschee said. “Sharif (Black) shot very well for us, and from the three, which helped us a lot too. We need to be a good shooting team to be the team we want to be. Overall tonight was a good team effort.”
Black finished the night shooting 4-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, finishing with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists. Wendt led the way in scoring with a career-high 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, 3-of-4 from long range and 5-of-7 from the free throw line, while adding a team-high five rebounds. Pekarek helped lead BSU to a 21-to-9 assist-to-turnover ratio with seven assists coming from the senior. Rovney added another five assists to one turnover off the bench.
All five Bemidji State starters scored at least nine points while the team shot 50 percent from the field as a whole, including 58.6 percent in the second half. The Beavers attempted 36 and converted 17 3-point shots, which are both season highs. The Vikings won the rebound margin, 37-27, and converted 16 second-chance points, but the Beavers turned 17 Vikings turnovers into 24 points.
Bemidji State continues its three-leg home stand with a 2 p.m. tip-off Saturday, Nov. 18 against Northland College at BSU Gymnasium. The Beavers and Lumberjacks meet for the third time in as many years and for the 52nd meeting all-time.