The Gustavus Adolphus men’s basketball team opened their season with a 76-68 victory over Luther College Saturday afternoon in Decorah, Iowa. The Gusties had three players score in double-figures, led by Trevor Wittwer (Jr., Redwood Falls, Minn.) with 12. Luther’s Austin Bildstein led all players in scoring with 20.
The game opened as a back-and-forth battle with neither team jumping out to more than a three-point lead over the first 11:57 of the first half. Jump-started by a three-pointer by Kane Sivesind (Jr., Madison, Wis.) with 8:03 to play in the first half, the Gusties went on a 10-2 run to extend their one-point lead to nine at 28-19 over the next 1:33. Following Sivesind’s three, Andrew Doble (Jr., Sarasota, Fla.) scored the next seven Gustavus points.
Luther responded with a 13-4 run of their own to draw even with Gustavus at 32-32 with 1:55 to play in the half. Garett McKiness tallied seven points and three rebounds to lead the Norse. Gustavus scored the next seven points, but Luther’s Norm Winn hit a jumper with four seconds left to give the Gusties a 39-34 advantage at halftime.
Gustavus never trailed in the second half, extending the lead to 13 points on three occasions early in the half. Leading 59-46 with 10:40 to play following a pair of successful Andrew Doble free throws, the Gusties turned ball over on five straight trips down the floor. The Norse took advantage, cutting the lead to three at 60-57 before Jay Stien (Sr., Arlington, Minn.) sunk a pair from the charity stripe to give the Gusties a five-point advantage with 5:54 to play.
A jumper by Norm Winn on Luther’s next possession cut the Gustie lead to three, but a three-pointer and a free throw by Tyler Kaus (Jr., St. James, Minn.) and a pair of threes from Tyler Kramer (Sr., Hayfield, Minn.) helped Gustavus push the lead back to 13 at 74-61. Behind five points from Bildstein, the Norse made one final charge, cutting the lead to 74-68 with just 0:13 to play, but a pair of Jay Stien free throws sealed the victory for Gustavus.
Wittwer led the Gusties with 12 points after hitting three of five shots from the field. Wittwer was also 6-of-13 from the charity stripe. Kramer added 11 points behind 3-of-4 shooting from behind the three-point line, while Andrew Doble posted 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field. Doble also made all three of his free throws and pulled down five rebounds. Jay Stien pulled down a game-high six rebounds and hit five of six free throws to finish with seven points.
Bildstein led all players with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field. He also made a pair of three-pointers, a couple of free throws, brought down a team-high four rebounds and made three steals. Winn added 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting and also had four rebounds.
Gustavus shot 65 percent (26-40) from the field for the game but connected on only 54.8 percent (17-31) of their free throws. The Gusties won the battle on the boards, out-rebounding the Norse 33-22. In addition to their struggles at the free-throw line, the Gusties had some difficulty holding onto the ball. Luther amassed 12 steals and forced 22 turnovers in all.
The Gusties will open the home schedule Tuesday against Buena Vista University at 8 p.m.