The Gustavus men’s basketball team shot 72.4 percent from the field (21-29) and scored 51 points in the second half on its way to a convincing 91-70 win over St. Olaf in Northfield on Wednesday in a MIAC Quarterfinal Playoff game. The Gusties, the #5 seed in the tournament, will now travel back to Northfield to play #1 seed Carleton on Friday at 7:30 pm in a MIAC Playoff Semifinal game.
Bobby Johnson and Seth Anderson each scored 22 points to lead Gustavus, which improves to 14-12 overall and will play in the MIAC Semifinal round for the 11th straight year. The Gusties are now 4-0 in MIAC Quarterfinal games since the league playoff format changed from four to six teams in the 2002-03 season.
“Props to our guys for hanging in there and handling everything St. Olaf threw at us,” commented Head Coach Mark Hanson. “We shot 64.0 percent from the field and committed just four turnovers in the first half and still trailed by two at halftime. Our guys stayed focused and some of the shots St. Olaf made in the first half stopped going in in the second half. We played well for 40 minutes.”
Two free throws by the Oles Stu Neville tied the score at 59-59 with 10:43 left to play, however the Gusties would outscore St. Olaf 21-0 over the next five minutes to take a commanding 80-59 lead. During the game-changing streak, the Gusties were 8-for-8 from the field, including 4-of-4 from three point range, while the Oles were 0-for-5 from the field with five turnovers.
“We had a couple of extra days to prepare and the guys spent a lot of time watching film and focusing on the Oles,” stated junior post Bobby Johnson. “It’s been a while since we have felt this way about our play. We knew we had to play well and we did.” Johnson turned in his finest performance of the season as he registered 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field, while grabbing nine rebounds.
Junior guard Seth Anderson continued his late-season surge with 22 points (9-of-13 from the field), 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals. Anderson, who is averaging 13.1 points per game in 26 games this season, has averaged 24.0 points per game over the last five games.
Other Gustie players scoring in double figures included Phil Wirtjes with 16 points and Dan Schmidtknecht with 14. The Gustavus starters, which consisted of Johnson, Anderson, Wirtjes, Schmidtknecht, and Paul Blacklock outscored the St. Olaf starters 76 to 46. Bobby Fong led the Oles with 23 points.
Gustavus will now face Carleton for the fifth time in the last six years in the MIAC Playoffs. The last two meetings have been decided in overtime with the Gusties winning 71-70 in a semifinal game in 2008 and the Knights winning 78-71 in the championship game last year. This will be the eighth meeting all-time between Gustavus and Carleton in the MIAC Playoffs . The Gusties are 5-2 in the previous seven meetings. This will be only the second time that the two teams will play at Carleton. The Knights won the only other meeting in Northfield by the score of 55-48 in 2006.
The Gusties and Knights split their two regular season meetings this year with Gustavus winning 56-51 in St. Peter on January 15 and Carleton winning 67-49 in Northfield on February 5.