MEN'S BASKETBALL: Bigs come up huge as Bemidji State topples Minot State 81-73

Jan. 1—BEMIDJI — If Dalton Albrecht could get his hands on the ball in the post, he knew good things would happen.

"We had a good night in the paint," Albrecht said. "Me and John (Sutherland) both got to our go-to moves and did our thing."

The Bemidji State men's basketball team relied heavily on that duo on Saturday, exploiting a matchup advantage inside and riding their combined 48 points to beat Minot State 81-73 at the BSU Gymnasium.

"That's the advantage we thought we would have tonight," head coach Mike Boschee said. "Some games, maybe the perimeter might have more of an edge. But tonight, with Minot's lack of size, I thought we could take advantage of it. ... Those guys gave us what we needed from them."

Bemidji State scored 42 points in the paint on Saturday, using that to build a lead that they never relinquished. Though MSU tried time and time again to pull off a comeback, BSU held steady and led wire-to-wire in the second half.

"(Fending them off requires) understanding what it takes to be successful down the stretch," Boschee said, "and that's taking care of the basketball, making free throws and getting the ball to the guy who can get it done for us."

Rightfully so, Bemidji State got the ball to Albrecht and Sutherland.

MSU (7-5, 4-4 NSIC) led for most of the first half, but Albrecht tied the game at 28-28 with a score at the rim. Soon after, he went on a personal 7-0 run of four free throws and then an and-one layup to give BSU a 37-33 lead by halftime.

Despite its best efforts, however, Bemidji State (8-5, 4-4 NSIC) couldn't pull away from a pesky Minot State team that just kept hanging around. Albrecht capped an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer for a 57-45 lead, yet MSU ramped up the pressure and clawed back within 67-64 with four minutes remaining.

But BSU's bigs kept coming up huge.

Albrecht answered with a post move for a big bucket, and Sutherland soon followed with a pair of inside scores. RJ Smith added the exclamation point with a Euro-step dunk on a baseline drive inside the final two minutes, and Bemidji State finished the night by making every play it needed down the stretch.

"We did a good job battling through adversity," Albrecht said. "We did a good job limiting turnovers in the press too, and that was a huge part for us."

Boschee and Albrecht both highlighted how BSU is getting healthier again — embodied by Sutherland and Smith on the court together after each battled early-season injuries — which makes a big difference on nights like Saturday.

"When we weren't playing very well, it was because those two guys were out. But now we're getting healthier," Boschee said. "Our guys knew where we needed to get the ball tonight, and they did a good job of executing."

Sutherland finished with a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double, while Albrecht had a career-high 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Mohamed Kone added 14 points, as well.

Khari Broadway led Minot State in scoring with 19 points.

Bemidji State will now take a break from NSIC play for a nonconference matchup against Northland at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 2, at the BSU Gymnasium.

Bemidji State 81, Minot State 73

MSU 33 40 — 73

BSU 37 44 — 81

MINOT STATE — Broadway 19, Bohl 12, Dunfee 12, Gunville 10, Cook 5, Tolliver 5, Hollenbeck 3, Gichaba 2, Jok 2, Van De Griend 2, Srejma 1. Totals: 22-57 FGs, 8-25 3-pt. FGs, 21-32 FTs.

BEMIDJI STATE — Sutherland 25, Albrecht 23, Kone 14, Christlieb 6, Smith 5, Lowman 3, Tennyson 2, Williams 2. Totals: 28-49 FGs, 6-16 3-pt. FGs, 19-27 FTs.