The Gustavus men’s basketball team rallied from an 11-point second half deficit to claim a thrilling 65-64 win over Saint John’s in St. Peter on Saturday night. The game was very tight down the stretch with the Gusties making 4-of-6 free throws in the final :90 seconds to hold on for the important victory. Trevor Wittwer led Gustavus with 16 points.
In a key MIAC matchup between two teams that entered the game tied for second place, the Gusties struggled through the first 25 minutes of the game, before turning things around and gutting out a critical one point victory. The win allows the Gusties to finish the first half of the MIAC schedule in a tie for second place with Carleton at 7-3. The Knights rallied from nine points down with three minutes to play to beat Bethel by one, 83-82 in Northfield,
Saint John’s got off to a fast start against the Gusties jumping to a ten-point 22-12 lead with 8:17 left in the first half. Gustavus would whittle away at the lead over the next six minutes and cut the lead to three at 32-29 at the 2;14 mark. Saint John’s would quickly push the lead back to six at 37-31 with 1:01 left in the half and then junior wing Tim Veurink knocked down a three-point basket as time expired to give the Johnnies a 40-31 lead at the intermission. Johnnie guard Matt Ohme was red hot in the first half scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
The Johnnies would maintain their substantial lead early in the second half and extended their lead to a game-high 11 points at 46-35 with 17:32 left to play. The Gusties quickly responded with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to five points at 46-41 at the 16:54 mark, Saint John’s held a five-to-seven point lead through the next five minutes of the game, but Gustavus cut the lead to two points at 50-48 on two free throws by freshman guard Mike DesLauriers with 12:25 on the clock. A few minutes later, the Gusties cut the lead to one point at 54-53 on two free throws by Andrew Olson. With 6:19 left to play, Gustavus took its first lead of the game at 59-58 on a layup by senior guard Trent Hollerich. The Johnnies took the lead right back (60-59) on a basket by Paul Heinrichs, but Gustavus countered with a basket by Trevor Wittwer to make the score 61-60 with 4:04 left to play. The Gusties would not trail the rest of the game. The two teams would go scoreless for the next two-and-a-half minutes before Trent Hollerich made two free throws to give Gustavus a 63-60 lead with 1:36 left to play.
Trent Hollerich would make one-of-two free throws with :05 left to give the Gusties a 65-62 lead. Saint John’s quickly pushed the ball up the floor and Ryan Lieser missed a three-point attempt that would have tied the score and Brady Brink tipped the miss into the basket as time expired to make the final score 65-64 in favor of Gustavus.
The Gusties placed four players in double figures including Wittwer with 16, Hollerich and Adam TeBrake with 11, and Andrew Olson with 10. Junior guard Matt Ohme led the Johhnies in scoring with 24. The only other player in double figures was Craig Schafer with 11. Gustavus made 50.0 percent of its shots (23-46), while Saint John’s made 45.9 percent of its shots (28-61). The Gusties held a big advantage at the free throw line making 16-of-20, compared to only 4-of-6 for the Johnnies. Saint John’s out-rebounded the Gusties by a 38-24 margin.
Gustavus will begin the second round of league play on Saturday at 3:15 pm at Hamline University.