In front of a full house with a playoff-like atmosphere, the top-ranked St. Thomas defense did not allow many clear looks at the basket as the Gustavus men’s basketball team lost 72-59 at Gus Young Court on Saturday afternoon. The Tommies held the Gusties to 39 percent shooting, while going 53 percent from the floor themselves. Sam Paulson fell one rebound short of recording a double-double as he poured in 14 points and grabbed nine boards. St. Thomas was paced by B.J. Viau, who scored 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
Bobby Johnson converted a pair of free throws to give Gustavus a two-point lead, but B.J. Viau hit a jump shot on the next Tommie possession to trigger a 10-2 run that gave St. Thomas a 17-11 lead with 8:54 left in the first half. The Gusties stuck with the Tommies the rest of the frame and appeared to be headed into the locker room trailing 37-31 at halftime, but Brett Tuma hit a left-handed layup as time expired to give St. Thomas an eight-point lead. The Tommies shot nearly 58 percent from the floor in the period, but Gustavus stayed within striking distance after going 14-for-19 from the charity stripe.
Head Coach Mark Hanson’s troop pulled to within five points at 47-42 after Sam Paulson completed an old-fashioned three-point play with 16:30 on the clock before the offense began to struggle. Both squads failed to score for several minutes before Ryan McPartland sank two free throws to make the score 51-44 in favor of St. Thomas. The Tommies then rattled off the next eight points to give them their largest lead of the game at 59-44 with 7:53 remaining. Gustavus was unable to cut the margin to single digits the rest of the way as St. Thomas left with a 72-59 win.
Three Gusties finished in double-figures including Sam Paulson with 14, Robert Schmidt with 13, and Jesse Van Sickle with 10. Bobby Johnson came off the bench to post seven points and eight rebounds. Gustavus was 18-for-46 from the field for 39.1 percent, but hit 19-of-25 from the free-throw line. B.J. Viau was one of four Tommie players to reach double-digits with 15 points as Joe Scott and Alex Healy recorded 11 points and Tyler Nicolai added 10.
The Gusties, who fell to 12-11 overall and 11-7 in the MIAC, stand in a three-way tie for fourth place in the standings. The Tommies remained undefeated with a record of 22-0 overall and 18-0 in the league. Gustavus will travel to Arden Hills on Wednesday to face Bethel at 7:30 p.m.