Bemidji State's James Ellisor scored a game-high 26 points on 11 of 12 shooting to lead the Beavers to a 70-56 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win over Southwest Minnesota State Saturday in Bemidji.
Ellisor, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, leads the NSIC in scoring at 22.1 points per game, nearly three points per game more than the next highest scorer.
SMSU head men's basketball coach Brad Bigler said his team got a real good look at what makes Ellisor such a dynamic player.
"Going into the game, we said he's arguably the best player in the league," Bigler said. "He showed he's capable of putting up big numbers in a number of ways.
"He can score in the paint, put the ball on the floor, knock down threes, he's just a very complete player and a guy that makes (BSU), by himself, one of the best teams in the conference."
The Mustangs (9-8 overall, 8-5 NSIC) and Beavers (14-5, 9-4) played a tight first half and were tied at 25 at halftime. The second half saw BSU pull ahead by as many as 12 points with six minutes left in the game, but a three-pointer by Jordan Miller with 3 minutes, 4 seconds remining cut the Beavers' lead to 59-54. After a layup by Ellisor, SMSU guard Vinard Birch answered with a jumper in the lane to trim the lead to 61-56 with 1:48 left.
The Mustangs didn't hit another basket the rest of the game and BSU closed out the win with a 9-0 run.
Casey Sussenguth came off the bench to lead the Mustangs with a career-high 18 points in 19 minutes. He went 6-for-9 from the field and 6-for-7 from the foul line.
"Of all the guys, I thought Casey came ready to play and really took advantage of his opportunities," Bigler said. "He had energy and he was productive for us throughout the game. A lot of that was his leadership, his willingness to fight and get us back in the game. He gave us a spark. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a couple more guys to get it going in the second half."
Nick Smith added 12 points and seven rebounds for SMSU, and Miller finished with nine points. SMSU shot 38.2 percent from the field and 14.3 percent (2 of 14) from the three-point line. BSU shot 53.1 percent from the field in the win.
After winning three straight home games, the Mustangs have now lost back-to-back games to start a four-game road trip. With games coming up this weekend against Upper Iowa (Friday) and Winona State (Saturday), Bigler said his players need to do a better job of maintaining a high level of energy throughout their games.
"I think the biggest thing we're focusing on is making sure we control what we can control," he said. "Friday (at Minnesota-Duluth), we played well enough to win. Saturday, that wasn't the case. We didn't have the same energy.
"Upper Iowa is going to be one of the more physical games we're going to have all year, so we're going to need to bring a high level of energy into that one. Against Winona, that's a game where there's going to be a lot of emotion. They're the best team in the conference and that's going to be a great environment to play in and we're going to have to step up to that challenge."
Nick Smith 5-12 2-3 12, Jordan Miller 4-11 0-0 9, Will Giddings 3-5 1-1 8, Vinard Birch 1-5 1-2 3, Matt Zager 1-6 1-2 3, Casey Sussenguth 6-9 6-7 18, Tramel Barnes 1-2 1-3 3, Trent Carlson 0-1 0-0 0, Lavione West 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 21-55 12-18 56. Three-Pointers 2-14 Rebounds 25 (Smith 7) Assists 5 (Birch 2) Steals 8 (Barnes 3) Blocks 0 Turnovers 10 Total Fouls 19.
Bemidji State (70)
James Ellisor 11-12 4-5 26, Lance Rongstad 2-6 7-9 12, Dermaine Crockrell 3-9 2-5 9, Mason Walters 4-8 0-0 9, Bryce Tesdahl 2-5 0-0 5, David Berthene 2-3 0-0 5, Zach Noreen 2-4 0-0 4, Maxie Rosenbloom 0-0 0-0 0, Jason Edwards 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Schalow 0-2 0-0 0, Ryan Kinnell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-49 13-19 70. Three-Pointers 5-18 Rebounds 39 (Rongstad 7) Assists 22 (Tesdahl 10) Steals 5 (Walters 2) Blocks 3 Turnovers 18 Total Fouls 18.
Halftime Score: Bemidji State 25, SMSU 25.