In a classic battle that lived up to all the pre-game hype, the Gustavus men’s basketball team out-lasted Macalester College 75-69 in a thrilling MIAC Playoff Championship game played on the Gustavus campus. The game was in doubt until the final minute of play when a lay-up by Phil Sowden with one minute left and two Eric Nelson free throws with :26 left sealed the win for Gustavus. The Gusties improve to 22-5 overall, while Macalester wraps up its finest season in the school’s history with a record of 18-9.
The first half was played at a very high level with the players feeding off the energy of a group of 3,000 very enthusiastic fans at Gus Young Court. The Scots held the biggest lead of the half at six (14-8) at the 12:50 mark. The Gusties would rally to take a five point lead at 33-28 with 3:19 remaining. Macalester scored the final four points of the half to cut the Gustavus lead to one at 33-32 at the intermission.
The score remained close early in the second half and a free throw by Chris Assel tied the score at 37-37 with 17:09 remaining. The next trip down the floor, Gustavus senior forward Tim Brown drained a three-point basket giving the Gusties a lead that they would not ever relinquish. Gustavus would slowly build its lead to 10 points (56-46) on a jumper by Brown at the 10:14 mark.
The Gusties would maintain their double digit lead throughout the next five minutes and a free throw by Phil Sowden with 4:56 left would give Gustavus its last double-digit lead of 10 points at 66-56. The Scots would slowly begin to cut the Gustie lead and two free throws by Adam Denny with 3:28 remaining trimmed the lead to five points at 68-63. The Gusties would extend their lead back to eight points and then a lay-up by Brendan Bosman and a three-point basket by Ben Van Thorre got Macalester within three points at 71-68 with 1:28 left to play.
Gustavus would come up with one of the big plays of the game the next time down the court. A missed jumper by Tim Brown was tipped in by freshman post Phil Sowden to allow the Gusties to maintain their five-point cushion with 1:00 left to play. Macalester would miss its next three shots and the Gusties would counter with two free throws by Eric Nelson with :26 that left pushed the lead to seven (75-68). A free throw by Macalester’s Chris Assel with :02 left made the final score 75-69.
Balanced score was a key to the win for Gustavus. Four players registered double-digits including Phil Sowden with 15, Tim Brown with 14, Eric Nelson with 12 and Adam TeBrake with 10. Bench scoring was also important as the Gustie reserves outscored the Macalester bench 21-9. Senior Adam Thorson contributed an important four points and four rebounds in nine minutes of play.
Macalester was led by Ben Van Thorre with 19, Chris Assel with 15 and Brendan Bosman with 11.
Gustavus claimed its second consecutive MIAC Playoff title and eighth in the 20-year history of the tournament. The Gusties will be making their fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and eighth appearance in the last nine years. Gustavus advanced to the NCAA Championship game last year before falling to Williams College 67-65.