Men's Basketball Opens Conference with a 67-57 Win over Bemidji

Natalie Dillon
Crookston Times

The University of Minnesota Crookston men’s basketball team started their conference season with a 67-57 win against Bemidji State University on Tuesday, November 23. 

Head coach Dan Weisse credited part of the win to the Gary Senske court dedication that happened during halftime. Senske was the head coach for the Golden Eagles men’s basketball team from 1981-2002. In that time, he totaled 176 wins, becoming the most successful coach in the program’s history.   

“We told the boys, this place will be around after we are all here, and there were a lot of good people around before us,” Weisse said. “We wanted to make them proud. Win or lose, we wanted to come out playing hard. Tonight, we played hard for forty minutes, put a nice cap on this beautiful Senske court dedication and went 1-0 to start the league.” 

In the past two games against Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech, the Golden Eagles came out slow in the first half, but tonight Crookston flipped the script. 

After giving up the first three points to Bemidji, Crookston went on an 8-0 run with points from Leonard Dixon, Brian Sitzmann and Ethan Channel.  

The Beavers stuck around, but Channel looked to extend the Golden Eagle lead. In back-to-back trips down the court, the junior hit a jumper and three-pointer. Bemidji battled back, however, scoring nine unanswered points to take a 2-point lead.   

Zach Westphal and Sitzmann tied the game at 20 and 22 before the Golden Eagles went on an 11-0 run. Westphal was the main contributor, as he had a layup, three-pointer and two free throws in that span. 

The Beavers were able to close the gap with the last shot in the first half, but they went into the locker room trailing 28-33. 

Uzo Dibiamaka got the Golden Eagles started in the second half, as he scored their first six points. Nathaniel Powell and Dixon kept the momentum going by adding a two-point shot and dunk in transition, respectively. Dixon scored in transition again to put the Golden Eagles up by 14, their largest lead of the game. 

In the next seven minutes, Bemidji slowly worked to get the game within four, as Travis Bianco hit a three-pointer with seven minutes left in the game. 

Shots from Dixon, Dibiamaka and Westphal kept Crookston at a consistent 7-point lead before Zen Goodridge’s shot in the paint extended the lead to double digits.  

Dibiamaka scored the last points of the game on a free throw to secure the 10-point victory.  

Dixon led the team in points and rebounds with 19 and 9, respectively. He also added 5 steals. Dibiamaka also had a good offensive game, as he put up an additional 13 points and 5 rebounds. Channel, Sitzmann and Westphal added 9 points apiece to the Golden Eagles’ total 67. On the boards, Goodridge tied Dixon with 9 rebounds, and Sitzmann had 5.  

Compared to their last two games, Crookston improved in total rebounds, fast-break defense and turnovers. Against Norther Michigan and Michigan Tech, the team averaged just 31 rebounds and gave up an average of 11 points in transition and 20.5 points from turnovers. On Tuesday night, however, the team had 50 rebounds and gave up just 6 points in transition and 10 points on turnovers. 

With the win, Crookston’s record improves to 2-3 and 1-0 in conference play. In the preseason poll, the Golden Eagles were picked to finish dead last in conference, a stat the Dixon knows can be misleading. 

“Last year we finished 2-14, so this year we have something to prove,” Dixon said. “Everybody’s coming in here thinking they’re going to get an easy win on us, so we go into each possession fighting and hope to get a win out of it at the end of the day.” 

Nathaniel Powell goes for two
Dixon with a jumper
Leonard Dixon and Uzo Dibiamaka go for the block
Uzo Dibiamaka tries to beat the shot clock
Ethan Channel puts up a 3-point shot
Brian Sitzmann puts up a shot with a hand in his face