After three straight heartbreaking losses to open the New Year, the Gustavus men’s basketball team has bounced back with three straight wins including Monday night’s 66-58 win over Augsburg on Gus Young Court in St. Peter. The Gusties led by as many as 22 points in the second half, but the Auggies put together a late rally to cut the lead to six with 22 seconds left. Gustavus made six straight free throws in the final 20 seconds to hold on for the victory. Paul Blacklock and Tyler Grey led the Gusties in scoring with 14 points each.
The first eight minutes of the game were very evenly played and the score was tied at 12-12 at the 12:00 minute mark. The Gusties however, opened up a a double-digit lead with a 13-2 run over the next five minutes and led 25-14 at the 7:19 mark. Ben Biewen sparked Gustavus with five of the 13 points during the run. The Gusties continued to build their lead and claimed their biggest lead of the half at 32-16 on a three-point basket by Tyler Grey with 4:38 left in the first half. Gustavus took a 15-point lead into the locker room at the intermission with a score of 38-23.
A quick start to the second half pushed the Gustavus lead to 22 points at 45-23 as Phil Wirtjes knocked down a three-point basket and Seth Anderson added a pair of 15-foot jumpers. The Gusties would maintain a comfortable lead for the first 15 minutes of the second half and led 58-43 with five minutes left to play. The Auggies, however would put together a strong rally in the final minutes of the game using an 11-2 run to cut the lead to six points at 60-54 with 22 seconds left on the clock. Augsburg was forced to foul to try and cut into the lead in the final seconds and the Gusties responded by making six consecutive free throws and held on for the eight-point victory, 66-58.
Coach Mark Hanson thought the team played well despite the late Augsburg rally saying, “It is easy to forget about the first 35 minutes because the last five became a little tighter. They lose their conscience because they are down by 15 and take some shots they wouldn’t take normally. To their credit, several of those went in which made it interesting and we made some sloppy offensive plays during that time that helped them cut into the lead.”
Hanson added, “You have to remember that we put them in a position that they had to make those big plays just to get back into the game, so we can’t forget how well we played prior to the final five minutes. I was also pleased with the fact that we made some free throws down the stretch that prevented the complete comeback on their part.”
The Gusties got some strong production from their bench as Tyler Grey (14), Bobby Johnson (6), Ben Biewen (5), and Reed Sallstrom (2) combined for 27 points in the game. Grey and Paul Blacklock were the Gusties leading scorers with 14 points. The only other Gustavus player in double figures was Seth Anderson with 10. Augsburg’s Cory Polta led all scorers with 17 points.
Gustavus has gotten defensive in its last three games limiting its opponents to an average of 55.3 points per game, while scoring an average of 64.7 points per game. The Gusties currently rank third in scoring defense in the MIAC allowing 64.9 points per game and third in scoring offense averaging 72.1 points per game.
With the victory, Gustavus improves to 9-5 overall and 7-2 in the MIAC. The Gusties will host Bethel on Wednesday at 7:30 pm at Gus Young Court.