The Gustavus men’s basketball team improved its record to 5-1 in the MIAC with a 70-61 win over St. Thomas in front of a boisterous home crowd of over 1,800 on Wednesday night. The Gusties could not ever put the pesky Tommies away, however, St. Thomas did not ever get closer than six points in the second half. Gustavus improves to 7-4 overall and 5-1 in the MIAC, while St. Thomas falls to 4-7 overall and 2-4 in the MIAC.
The first half was very closely played as the score was tied four times. The Gusties held the largest lead of the half at six, which they held three different times. St. Thomas got to within one at 24-23 with 2:16 to play, however the Gusties scored the last five points of the half to take a six point lead into the lockerroom at 29-23.
Gustavus outscored the Tommies 9-2 in the first five minutes of the second half to extend its lead to 13 at 38-25. Junior forward Doug Espenson scored four of his 15 second half points during that stretch. Espenson was perfect from the field in the second half as he made all five field goal attempts and all five free throw attempts. St. Thomas cut the lead to six at 43-37 with 11:47 left in the game, however Gustavus would again extend its lead to double digits at 10 (48-38) with 10:21 left to play. The Tommies would get no closer than seven points in the final 10 minutes of the game and that was after a jumper by Mike Dahlstrom with :18 left.
Balanced scoring was a key for the Gusties as four players recorded double digits. Espenson led the way with 20 points, followed by Chris TeBrake with 16, Tim Brown with 11 and Eric Nelson with 10. The Gusties shot 52.5 percent from the field (21-40) and 79.3 percent from the free throw line (23-29).
St. Thomas was led by Nick Schader with 17. He was joined in double figures by Joey Shimek with 13 and Danny Peterson and Neal Anderson with 12 each. The Tommies shot 46.5 percent from the field (20-43) and 71.4 percent from the free throw line (15-21).
The Gusties moved back into sole possession of first place in the league standings after St.Mary’s surprised Macalester (66-57) in Winona and Concordia snuck past Carleton (60-59) in Northfield. Gustavus is now 5-1, while Carleton, Macalester, Bethel and St. John’s are tied for second at 4-2. The Gusties will travel to Winona to face St. Mary’s at 3:00 pm on Saturday.