The Gustavus men’s basketball team fell in its 2008-09 season opener 77-67 to Bethany Lutheran in Mankato, Minn. Jesse Van Sickle hit a three-point shot to pull the Gusties within six points (72-66) with 1:11 remaining in the contest, but the Vikings converted five of six free throws to seal the win. Ky Battern paced Gustavus with 13 points off the bench, while Tommy Saffert scored a game-high 21 points for Bethany Lutheran.
Both teams battled back and forth to start the contest as they were tied five times before the midway point of the first half. The Gusties tied the score at 27-27 after a three-pointer from Van Sickle at the 9:40 mark in the first half, but that would be as close as Gustavus would get in the game. Tommy Saffert answered with a trey that triggered a 12-2 Vikings run as Bethany Lutheran built a 39-29 lead with 6:24 on the clock. Dan Schmidtknecht helped cut the deficit to five points at 41-36 with a jump shot and a free throw, but four straight Saffert points pushed the margin back to 45-36. Coach Mark Hanson’s squad went into the locker room at halftime trailing 45-38 after a pair of free throws by Ky Battern.
The Vikings used a 6-0 run in the beginning of the second half for their largest lead of the game with the score 51-38 at the 16:43 mark. Gustavus pulled to within four points at 55-51 when the Gusties took advantage of a Bethany Lutheran three-minute scoring drought with twelve minutes remaining in the game. However, the Vikings used three-point shooting to build the lead back up to double-digits at 70-59 with 4:59 on the clock. Both teams struggled to score down the stretch, but a pair of free throws from Phil Wirtjes and five points from Van Sickle closed the gap to 72-66 at the 1:11 mark. Bethany Lutheran went 5-of-6 from the charity stripe to seal the win.
Gustavus held a 41-30 rebounding advantage, but the Vikings went 26-of-57 from the floor (45.6 percent) compared to 23-of-58 (39.7 percent) for the Gusties. The three-point line proved to be the difference as Bethany Lutheran made 10-of-21 and Gustavus made 6-of-16. The Gusties also struggled from the free-throw line making 15-of-24 (62.5 percent).
Gustavus was led by Ky Battern with 13 points and nine rebounds followed by 10 points from Jesse Van Sickle. In addition to Saffert’s 21 points, Bethany Lutheran’s Andy Wills finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Gusties will face Buena Vista University in their home opener on Tuesday, November 25 at 7:30 p.m.