The Gustavus men’s basketball team locked up in a physical, defensive battle with Carleton at Gus Young Court in St. Peter on Saturday afternoon and mustered just enough offense to slip past the Knights by the score of 56-51. With the win, the Gusties moved into a second place tie with Carleton with a league mark of 6-2, two games behind first place St. Thomas.
Both teams are ranked among the top defensive teams in the MIAC and the defensive pressure was evident from the start. After the first ten minutes of play, Carleton held a 13-12 lead and both teams were 5-of-13 from the field with three turnovers. The game was tied 20-20 with 3:19 left in the half, but Carleton used a 7-0 run to take a 27-20 lead at the 1:00 minute mark. The Gusties Reed Sallstrom made two free throws at the 30 second mark and Carleton led 27-22 at the intermission. The Gusties shot a cool 38.5 percent from the floor (10-26) including 0-of-2 from behind the arc. Carleton was slightly better shooting 11-of-25 from the floor (44.0 percent) including 3-of-7 from three-point range.
Gustavus used a 6-0 run early in the second half to take a 30-29 lead at the 14:51 mark. It was a lead the Gusties would not relinquish the rest of the game. Gustavus would build its lead to as many as 10 points at 47-37 with 6:10 left to play. A late rally by Carleton including two three-point baskets in the final minute of play cut the Gustavus lead to three points 54-51 with 07 seconds left to play. Dan Schmidtknecht hit two free throws with 04 seconds left to secure the victory for the Gusties.
Gustavus head coach Mark Hanson was pleased with how his team maintained its defensive intensity in spite of the slow start offensively. He stated, “Our defense did a nice job the whole game, making up for some poor offense in the first half.” Hanson added, “Our offense was significantly better in the second half. They are as good a defensive team as we will see and I think it took us a while to be patient enough to make that extra pass and get a better shot.”
After shooting 38.5 percent in the first half, the Gusties warmed up and shot 55.0 percent in the second half (11-20). Gustavus was also very good a the free throw line down the stretch making 12-of-16 from the charity stripe including 9-of-10 in the final four minutes of the game.
The hard-fought contest was typical of Gustavus-Carleton games in recent years including the eight-point win by Carleton in overtime in the MIAC Championship game last February at Gustavus. Hanson expected a battle with the Knights and expects many more tight games as the league race heats up. He commented, “It was a difficult win. Certainly a physical, hard-fought game. I think anyone that follows both teams has probably gotten accustomed to games like this. It’s a battle every game in this league and I am pleased with the way our guys made plays down the stretch to beat a quality opponent.”
Gustavus will host Augsburg on Monday night at 7:30 pm, while Carleton will host Macalester.