The Bismarck State College men's basketball team is in a rut -- a rut that got a little deeper Thursday night with a double-digit loss to the top team in the Mon-Dak Conference.
Melvin Newbern's game-high 29 points led five double-figure scorers as the visiting North Dakota State College of Science-Wahpeton Wildcats handed the Mystics their seventh straight loss, 99-83 at the BSC Armory.
The game was a far cry from the last time the two teams met on Jan. 15. The Wildcats rolled to a 106-70 victory in that one, but in the rematch, the Mystics managed to stay within striking distance until the closing minutes.
"We played a lot better this time. We battled but we couldn't get over the hump," said BSC coach Buster Gilliss. "They didn't shoot the ball as well as they did the last time, but we got hurt in other ways tonight."
Rebounding was one. The Wildcats collected 22 offensive rebounds, converting them into 17 second-chance points. The Mystics, meanwhile, had eight offensive boards and five second-chance points. NDSCS had a 59-34 rebounding advantage, led by Newbern's 16 (nine offensive) and Johnnie Turner's 13.
"They killed us on the glass. They gave themselves a lot of second and third chances," Gilliss said. "Rebounding hasn't been an issue for us this season, but it sure was tonight. You can't give good teams that many chances."
Free-throw shooting was another. NDSCS connected on 23 of 26 charity tosses, while BSC went 16-for-29.
"Going in I thought rebounding and free-throw shooting were going to be the keys to the game, and that's how it turned out," Gilliss said. "They made their free throws and we didn't shoot as well as we normally do."
Stevin Lipp (18), Oman Oman (17), Sam Baker (17) and Turner (11) also scored in double figures for the Wildcats, who improved to 8-1 in Mon-Dak play and 21-5 overall.
Austin Slaughter, Brody Nieuwsma, Kaelen Johnson, Tronis McKay and KyJuan Johnson tallied 23, 19, 15, 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Mystics.
A 9-3 run put the Wildcats up 53-39 at the intermission, and after BSC trimmed the deficit to 12, 55-43, early in the second half, NDSCS stretched its lead to 18, 61-43, on a pair of baskets by Newbern and another by Oman.
A 14-4 run pulled the Mystics within eight, 65-57, with 13:16 remaining, but after Lipp and Slaughter traded baskets, Lipp and Baker drained back-to-back 3-pointers to highlight an 8-0 run that made it 75-59 with 11:39 left.
It was 82-66 NDSCS before a 7-0 BSC run narrowed the gap to nine, 82-73, with 8:13 remaining. However, a free throw by Baker, a basket by Oman and a 3-pointer by Baker gave the Wildcats an 88-73 advantage. From there, the closest the Mystics could get was 12 points -- 88-76, 4:29, and 93-81, 3:26.
BSC, 2-7 in the conference and 8-16 overall, hopes to put an end to its losing streak next Thursday against United Tribes Technical College.
"Losing streaks are tough, but it hasn't been all bad. There have been some positives," Gilliss said. "Some of those games were close and could have gone either way. We're dealing with some injuries, too. Hopefully we can put it all together next week and get on track."