The Gustavus men’s basketball team went on a decisive 31-2 run in the first half en route to clinching its ninth consecutive berth in the MIAC Playoffs after a 74-55 win against St. Olaf on Wednesday in St. Peter. For the first twenty minutes, the Gusties were nearly perfect on the offensive end shooting 65.4 percent, while holding the Oles to just 28.6 percent. Phil Wirtjes and Robert Schmidt contributed 14 points each in the victory for Gustavus.
After a pair of Brady McMahon free throws to put St. Olaf ahead 4-2 early in the first half, Jesse Van Sickle drained a three-point basket as part of a 9-0 run to give the Gusties an 11-4 lead. Nate Krosschell stopped the run for the Oles with a jumper with 13:40 on the clock, but it would be the last basket for St. Olaf over the next seven minutes as Gustavus hit five three-pointers during a 22-0 stretch to go up 33-6 with 7:09 left in the half.
At halftime, the Gusties went into the locker room leading 47-16, due in part to seven three-pointers. The Oles struggled from the field going 6-for-21 and were out-rebounded during the period 19-5.
St. Olaf started the second half with increased aggressiveness on both ends of the floor as Mark Torell and Krosschell combined to score the first nine points of the frame, cutting the deficit to 22 points at 47-25 as the Gustavus offense cooled off. However, the margin was too great for the Oles to overcome as the Gusties led by at least 17 points for the duration of the contest.
Phil Wirtjes and Robert Schmidt provided 14 points on 11-for-15 shooting combined, as well as making six three-point baskets. Head Coach Mark Hanson’s club controlled the glass as it out-rebounded St. Olaf 35-19 as Mychal Crowder led the way with nine rebounds off of the bench. St. Olaf’s Nate Krosschell led all scorers with 22 points, 19 of which came in the second half, as no other Ole player reached double-digits.
The Gusties, who improved to 12-10 overall and 11-6 in the conference, are now in a five-way tie for second place in the MIAC with three games to play in the regular season. Gustavus will face unbeaten St. Thomas on Saturday at 3 p.m. in St. Peter. St. Olaf, which dropped to 8-14 overall and 5-12 in the league, hosts Saint Mary’s on Saturday at 3 p.m.