MEN'S BASKETBALL: Sutherland, Beavers ride efficient first half to win over SMSU

Jan. 28—BEMIDJI — John Sutherland didn't miss much on Friday night at the BSU Gymnasium.

The Bemidji State men's basketball junior forward scored 20 points in the first half against Southwest Minnesota State, compiling that gaudy total on 10-11 shooting from the floor. His prolific output powered the Beavers to a 50-point first half.

Despite some scares down the stretch, BSU's 16-point halftime lead held up, and Bemidji State secured a 83-76 win over the Mustangs to improve to 9-1 at home this season.

"We took the shots that they gave us," said Sutherland of the Beavers' efficiency. "We were knocking them down and playing in transition a lot. We got a lot of fast breaks."

Sutherland wasn't the only Beaver to score efficiently in the opening frame. Freshman guard Brayden Williams went 3-4 on 3-pointers, and BSU converted 19-29 from the floor as a whole.

When Williams hit a deep three with seconds left in the first half, it put an exclamation point on as good of an offensive opening as Bemidji State (14-7, 9-6 NSIC) could have hoped for.

Much of it was keyed by Sutherland, though, who seemingly couldn't miss on a variety of hook shots and turnaround moves in the post.

"I just take what the defense gives me," said Sutherland, who finished with 25 points overall on 75% shooting. Right away, they let me go left, so I started to take it left, and it was going in."

Things weren't as easy for the Beavers after the halftime break. SMSU (13-7, 9-6 NSIC) switched up its defensive schemes and started to diminish Sutherland's impact, forcing other BSU players to beat the Mustangs.

Bemidji State shot just 40.7% from the field in the second half, scoring only 33 points. But the Beavers had built a halftime barrier resilient enough to withstand the Mustangs' charges.

SMSU cut Bemidji State's lead to 57-50 early in the final frame, but Sutherland's layup and corresponding free throw made it 60-50 with 12:39 to go. Southwest Minnesota State pulled within five multiple times in the final five minutes, but it got no closer.

Williams played a key role in the last moments of the contest, sinking four clutch free throws to seal the victory.

Bemidji State's performance was emblematic of what has made it successful over a scorching-hot 9-2 stretch. The Beavers shot the ball at a proficient rate, defended sufficiently, and when it came down to crunch time, the group didn't lose its cool.

"We've been getting our chemistry up, we've been playing well together," Sutherland said. "Now, we're just playing super well. ... It's always great, especially towards the end of the year when playoffs are coming up. We just want to be hot going into playoffs so we can make noise there."

Sutherland led Bemidji State with his 25 points. He was accompanied in double figures by Mohamed Kone (17 points), Williams (15) and Dalton Albrecht (13).

With the playoffs just a few weeks away, the Beavers conclude their homestand by facing Sioux Falls at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, back at the BSU gym.

Bemidji State 83, Southwest MN State 76

SMSU 34 42 — 76

BSU 50 33 — 83

SOUTHWEST MN STATE — Omot 22, Costello 18, Chamberlain 9, Majouk 8, Layman 6, Phipps 6, McCray 5, Braaten 2. Totals: 28-57 FGs, 12-27 3-pt. FGs, 8-9 FTs.

BEMIDJI STATE — Sutherland 25, Kone 17, Williams 15, Albrecht 13, Lowman 6, Smith 6, Tennyson 1. Totals: 30-56 FGs, 10-25 3-pt. FGs, 13-16 FTs.