The Gustavus men’s basketball team claimed a thrilling 71-70 overtime win against Carleton in a MIAC Playoff Semifinal game at Gus Young Court in St. Peter on Thursday night. The Gusties rallied from six points down with :14 seconds left in regulation play to tie the score and send the game into overtime. Two free throws by the Gusties’ Andrew Doble with 1:19 left in the overtime proved to be the difference as Gustavus extended its season by claiming the 71-70 post-season victory. Gustavus will now face St. Thomas in St. Paul on Saturday night at 7:30 pm in the MIAC Playoff Championship. The winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Gusties, who trailed 32-29 at halftime, never led in the second half of play. Gustavus did manage to tie the score 35-35 at the 17:51 mark, however Carleton quickly pushed its lead to eight points at 45-37 with 14:02 remaining on the clock. The Knights held nine-point leads several times over the next seven minutes of play, however a 7-0 run by Gustavus cut Carleton’s lead to two at 56-54 at the 4:02 mark. Tommy Drake made two free throws with :30 seconds left in regulation play to push Carleton’s lead to six at 62-56. The Gusties pushed the ball quickly up the court and cut the lead to 62-58 on a layup by Andrew Doble with :24 left. Zach Johnson made two free throws with :22 left and it appeared that the Knights were on their way to their first ever playoff win on Gus Young Court. Gustavus, however, had other ideas as Tyler Kaus knocked down a three-point basket over the outstretched arms of Zach Johnson and the lead was cut to three at 64-61 with :13 left. Carleton missed the front end of a one-and-one with :11 left. Jesse Van Sickle raced up the floor with the ball on the break and when the defense backed off, Van Sickle pulled up at the top of the key and drained a three-point basket with :05 left to tie the score at 64-64. Zach Johnson attempted a three-point shot with :02 left but it bounced away and the game went to overtime.
In the overtime, the Knights jumped out to an early lead as Jeremy Sutherland made a three-point basket at the 3:44 mark. The Gusties went to the other end and tied the score at 67-67 on a trey by Kane Sivesind. After a couple of misses, Gustavus took the lead for the first time since the 18:23 mark of the first half, when Andrew Doble made a layup making the score 69-67. Carleton charged right down and tied the score on a layup by Jeremy Sutherland. With 1:19 remaining, Andrew Doble was fouled by Tommy Drake and he made two free throws giving the Gusties the lead for good at 71-69. The next trip down the floor, Bryan Rosett made one-of-two free throws for Carleton pulling the Knights within one at 71-70 with exactly one minute left in the overtime. Neither team was able to take advantage of several scoring opportunities down the stretch and when Zach Johnson’s fall away jumper bounced off the rim as time expired, the Gusties celebrated their thrilling overtime win on the court with a boisterous group of fans.
Gustavus was led in scoring by Trevor Wittwer with 15 points. The only other Gustie in double figures was Jesse Van Sickle with 14.
Carleton placed four players in double figures including Jeremy Sutherland with 25, Zach Johnson with 13, and Carter Biewen and Tommy Drake with 10 each.
The Gusties improved to 19-7 overall, while the Knights saw their season come to an end with a mark of 19-8. Gustavus is now 18-3 all-time at home in MIAC Playoff games and extended their home-court playoff win streak to six games. In addition, the Gusties are now 5-1 all-time against Carleton in the MIAC Playoffs and 5-0 against the Knights in playoff games at Gustavus.
Gustavus advances to the MIAC Playoff Championship game for the 14th time in the 24-year history of the conference tournament. The Gusties opponent in the championship game on Saturday – St. Thomas, will be appearing in the championship game for the 13th time. The Gusties and Tommies are the two most successful programs in the history of the league playoffs as the Gusties have compiled an all-time playoff mark of 25-7 (.781) with seven titles, while the Tommies have compiled an all-time mark of 20-12 (.625) with seven titles. This will be the sixth time that the two teams have met in the playoff championship game.
St. Thomas is the defending MIAC Playoff Champion and the #1 seed in the tournament. The Tommies defeated #5 seed Bethel 69-68 on Thursday night at Schoenecker Arena. The Gusties and Tommies split the regular season series with Gustavus winning 59-58 on January 12 in St. Peter and St. Thomas winning 76-68 on February 9 in St. Paul.