The Gustavus men’s basketball team advanced to the championship game of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament with a convincing 65-49 win over Bethel at Gus Young Court in Saint Peter on Thursday night. The Gusties got a big performance from sophomore post Phil Sowden who scored 16 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Gustavus, which picked up its 17th consecutive win, will host Saint Thomas (which beat Carleton 81-75) on Saturday night at 7:30 pm for the MIAC Playoff Championship.
The first ten minutes of the game was a real battle with the lead changing hands nine times. Bethel took a three-point lead (19-16) on a trey by Travis Jones with 9:24 left in the half. The Gusties countered with a 7-2 run and took the lead for good at 23-21 at the 5:53 mark. Gustavus went on to outscore the Royals 9-2 the rest of the half and took a nine-point 32-23 lead into the lockerroom. Sowden led the Gusties with 12 points and four rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Jones led Bethel with seven.
Gustavus got off to a quick start in the second half outscoring Bethel 7-2 in the first four minutes to take a 39-26 lead at the 16:00 minute mark. The Royals would get no closer than 13 points the rest of the night. . Two key back-to-back three-point baskets by Gustavus’ Andrew Olson extended the lead from 14 (41-27) to 20 (47-27) with 13:53 left to play. The Gusties held their biggest lead at 23 points (60-37) at the 6:29 mark.
Joining Phil Sowden in double figures for Gustavus was Adam TeBrake and Doug Espenson with 14 points each. Freshman Trevor Wittwer added nine points, while junior wing Trent Hollerich contributed eight rebounds.
Bethel was led by Travis Jones with 19, and Isaac Hinrichs with 10.
Gustavus shot 52.9 percent from the field (27-51) and 33.3 percent from behind the arc (6-18), while Bethel shot 30.9 percent from the field (17-55) and 22.7 percent from behind the arc (5-22).
This was the fifth consecutive year that Gustavus and Bethel have hooked up in the MIAC Playoff semifinals with the Gusties winning the last four. All five games have been played in Saint Peter.
This will be the 12th time that Gustavus has advanced to the MIAC Playoff Championship game in the 21 year history of the tournament. The Gusties have won eight titles (the most in the MIAC), including the last two. Gustavus defeated Macalester 75-69 in St. Peter in last year’s MIAC title game.