The Gustavus men’s basketball team held off a late Saint John’s rally to win its school record 16th straight MIAC regular season game 82-73 at Gus Young Court in St. Peter Saturday afternoon. Gustavus senior Doug Espenson played in his final regular season game as a Gustie and led the team with 29 points and nine rebounds. Paul Henrichs added a double-double for the Johnnies with 20 points and 12 boards. Gustavus finished the regular season at 20-5 overall and 18-2 in the MIAC, while Saint John’s dropped to 8-17 overall and 6-14 in the MIAC.
The Gusties got off to a quick 12-5 lead six minutes into the first half. The Gusties’ lead was extended to 21-10 with 10:05 left off a three-point shot from Doug Espenson. Gustavus’ Adam Hoffarber converted a lay-up after making a steal with 6:30 left in the half to give the Gusties a 26-14 lead. Gustavus garnered its largest lead of the first half on an Andrew Olson lay-up in the final seconds of the half to lead 41-24 going into the lockerroom.
Gustavus built its lead to 46-26 just 1:46 into the second half. The Gusties saw their lead drop to under 20 points only one time prior to 8:50 remaining in regulation to lead 64-47. In the following eight minutes, Gustavus was outscored 23-13 by the Johnnies to lead by only six at 76-70. This Saint John’s rally came after Gustavus led by a game-high 27 points with 12:51 remaining in the game. Gustavus closed the final 0:50 of the contest with a 6-3 scoring edge to win its final regular season home game 82-73.
The Gusties shot 48.9 percent (22-45) from the field, 23.1 percent (3-13) from the three-point line, and 74.5 percent (35-47) from the free throw line. Saint John’s shot 43.9 percent (25-57) from the field, 36.4 percent (4-11) from behind the arc, and 67.9 percent (19-28) from the charity stripe.
Doug Espenson led the Gusties offensively with 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks, while Andrew Olson added 18 points and Phil Sowden tallied 11 points. Saint John’s had four players in double figures, including Paul Henrichs (20), Matt Ohme (13), Joe Conzemius (12), and Craig Schafter (10).
Doug Espenson became the first player in Gustavus Adolphus College school history to record 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, 100 three-point baskets made, and 100 blocked shots in a career.
The Gusties have clinched the #1 seed in the MIAC playoffs and will host a semifinal game at Gus Young Court Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Gustavus will play the winner of Tuesday night’s match-up in Arden Hills between Bethel and Concordia.