As the Gustavus men’s basketball team clung to a three-point lead with less than a minute to play, the Gusties went 6-for-6 from the free throw line to hang on for a 66-59 win over Saint Mary’s on Wednesday at Gus Young Court. Gustavus shot 53.5 percent from the field on 23-for-43 shooting and held the Cardinals to 31.7 percent (20-for-63), including 2-for-19 from three-point range. Three Gusties reached double-figures as Ryan McPartland compiled 14 points followed by Jesse Van Sickle with 11 and Robert Schmidt with 10.
Will Wright from Saint Mary’s scored the first seven points of the game to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead before Jesse Van Sickle drilled a three and a pull up jumper to put the Gusties on the board. Gustavus took a 16-13 lead after Tyler Grey hit a jumper before the Cardinals rattled off six straight points as the Gusties were held scoreless for over three minutes. Both squads traded leads until the end of the half before a layup by Ryan McPartland gave Gustavus a 28-26 lead at the break. The Gusties shot 57.1 percent from the floor, but committed nine turnovers and allowed Lukas Holland and Wright to score 19 of the Cardinals’ 26 first half points.
After Robert Schmidt hit a three-point basket on the first Gustavus possession of the second half, Saint Mary’s went on a 12-0 run to take a 38-31 lead. Dan Schmidtknecht stopped the scoring string when he found Bobby Johnson along the baseline for a left-handed layup, which helped get the high-low offense rolling. The Gusties went on an ensuing 16-4 run that was capped off by a Phil Wirtjes three and a Dan Schmidtknecht layup after a steal forcing the Cardinals to call timeout with Gustavus ahead 47-42 and 6:42 left to play.
Saint Mary’s continued to fight as the Cardinals cut the deficit to one point after a pair of free throws by Bradley Bruno to make the score 52-51. The Gustie lead grew to eight points at 59-51 with 00:55 left after a 7-0 run highlighted by a reverse layup by Wirtjes after receiving a Johnson pass Johnson that found its way through three defenders.
The game was far from over though, as Bruno and Holland made a series of free throws to pull Saint Mary’s within three points at 60-57 with 00:37 remaining in the game. Wirtjes was fouled on the next in-bounds play and sank both free throws to make it a two-possession contest. Ryan McPartland and Jesse Van Sickle sealed the win for Gustavus after going 4-for-4 from the charity stripe as the game ended at 66-59.
The Gusties had a balanced scoring attack as Ryan McPartland, Jesse Van Sickle, and Robert Schmidt registered 14, 11, and 10 points, respectively. Phil Wirtjes came off the bench to score nine points in the second half and hold Will Wright to six points in the second half. In addition to Lukas Holland’s game-high 19 points for the Cardinals, Wright reached 17 points. Despite its shooting woes, Saint Mary’s stayed in the game by grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and committing only five turnovers.
Gustavus, which improved to 9-8 overall and 8-4 in the MIAC, returns to action Monday, February 2 against Augsburg at 7:30 p.m. in Minneapolis. The Cardinals, who dropped to 5-12 overall and 4-8 in league play, host Saint John’s on Saturday at 3 p.m.