The Gustavus men’s basketball team survived an 11-2 Saint Olaf rally in the last 4:34 to win 58-57 at Gus Young Court in St. Peter Wednesday night. Doug Espenson led the Gusties offensively with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Phil Sowden tallied 15 points and four boards. Tucker Weisman (16) and Jon Bain (13) led the Ole’s in points. Gustavus won their 13th straight game improving to 17-5 overall and 15-2 in the MIAC, while Saint Olaf dropped to 7-16 overall and 3-15 in the MIAC.
Gustavus scored first with 16:06 left in the first half off two free throws from Doug Espenson. The Gusties extended their lead to 11-2 with 11:40 remaining in the half as Doug Espenson scored all of the Gustavus points during this span. Saint Olaf countered with an 11-4 rally to trail by just two points, 15-13 with 9:04 left. However, a lay-up by Trevor Wittwer started a 12-2 Gustavus run giving the Gusties their largest edge of the night (27-15) with 6:18 left. The Gusties led 33-27 at the intermission.
The Ole’s pulled within three points of the Gusties on three different occasions in the first seven minutes of the second half. Gustavus’ Adam Hoffarber hit a three-pointer with 12:45 left to give the Gusties a six-point cushion 44-38. Doug Espenson got his 19th and 20th points on a dunk with 8:45 remaining in regulation to give the Gusties a 49-40 lead. Saint Olaf went on an 11-2 run in the final 4:34 to pull within one of the Gusties, but Doug Espenson blocked a Saint Olaf shot causing a jump ball as time expired garnering a 58-57 Golden Gusties victory.
Gustavus shot 42 percent (21-50) from the field, 42.1 percent (8-19) from the three-point line, and 61.5 percent (8-13) from the free throw line. Saint Olaf tallied 47.1 percent (24-51) from the field, 50 percent (6-12) from behind the arc, and a mere 33.3 percent (3-9) from the charity stripe.
Doug Espenson led the Gusties with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 steals, while Phil Sowden added 15 points and four boards and Trent Hollerich added four points and nine rebounds. Tucker Weisman led the Ole’s with 16 points and three rebounds, while Jon Bain added 13 points and six rebounds.
Senior Doug Espenson has not only been providing offensively for the Gusties, but he has been doing little things to produce victories — diving for loose balls, causing jump balls, and creating key defensive stops. He said, “I was always brought up to give it 100 percent and dive after every loose ball. It comes down to wanting to lead by example. As a first year, I sat on the bench and watched people diving for loose balls and taking charges and have realized how important every single possession really is. One of the loose balls we got tonight could have been picked up by Saint Olaf and might have led to us losing so every loose ball matters in the big picture.”
Gustavus will play Augsburg on Monday in Minneapolis starting at 7:30 p.m. The Gusties beat the Auggies 63-56 in St. Peter on January 15. The Gusties will then play on Wednesday in Saint Paul against Macalester, a team Gustavus beat at home 78-70 on January 17. The Golden Gusties will end the regular season at home against Saint John’s on Feburary 19 at 3 p.m.