Gustavus senior guard Phil Wirtjes scored 21 second half points to help the Gusties break open a tight game and defeat Buena Vista University 95-81 at Gus Young Court in St. Peter, Minn. on Monday night. The Beavers pulled to within six points several times in the second half, but clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch (13-of-16 in the final two minutes of play) allowed the Gusties push the lead to 14 points at the final buzzer. Wirtjes’ 21 led Gustavus, while Buena Vista was led by Wesley Nordquist who poured in 23 points. The game was the 2010-11 opener for both squads.
The game was marred at times by the numerous fouls whistled on both teams. A total of 49 fouls were called in the contest (25 on Buena Vista and 24 on Gustavus) and the teams combined to shoot 61 free throws. The Gusties converted 25-of-31 free throw attempts, while the Beavers were 22-of-30 from the charity stripe.
Gustavus got off to a quick 10-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game, but Buena Vista countered with a 10-0 run to tie the score at 12-12 with 14:28 left in the first half. The Gusties maintained a slight lead over the next nine minutes and used a 5-0 run to take a 10-point lead at 31-21 with five minutes left in the half. The Beavers battled back once again and used a 16-6 run to tie the score at 37-37 with :54 left to play. Blake Shay hit two free throws with 36 seconds left to give the Gusties a 39-37 lead at the intermission.
Gustavus held double-digit leads six different times in the second half, but Buena Vista battled to stay close and never let the Gusties get out of reach. A three-point play by Wesley Nordquist with 1:25 left cut the Gustavus lead to three at 86-80, but the Gusties made 9-of-10 free throws the rest of the way to claim the 14-point victory.
Balance was the key for Coach Mark Hanson’s squad as all five starters scored in double figures. Wirtjes led the way with 21, followed by James Hill with 18, Dan Schmidtknecht with 13, Seth Anderson with 12, and Paul Blacklock with 10.
The 95 points scored by the Gusties are the most points scored in a season opener in the 102-year history of the program. The previous best was 89 points scored against Graceland College (in a 89-67 victory) in 1986.
The win was also the 250th win on Gus Young Court since the Lund Center for Athletics, Physical Education, Health, and Recreation was opened in November of 1984. The Gusties have compiled an all-time mark of 250-72 (.776 winning percentage) at home in the Lund Center.
Gustavus will hit the road to play another non-conference contest against UW-Superior in Superior on Saturday night at 7:00 pm.