The Gustavus men’s basketball team held a slim three-point lead (39-36) over a scrappy Bethel squad at halftime on Wednesday night, but the host Gusties shot a red-hot 69.2 percent (18-of-26) from the field in the second half to claim a convincing 85-72 win over the Royals in St. Peter. Dan Schmidtknecht led Gustavus with 17 points and six assists.
The Gusties got off to a slow start in the game and Head Coach Mark Hanson credited the effort of Bethel as a factor. “They certainly did not play like a 1-8 team. They played with a lot of passion and effort and we did not match that effort in the first half. I thought we did a better job of that in the second half,” stated Hanson.
Bethel jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the game before the Gusties battled back with seven straight points to take a 7-5 lead at the 16:47 mark. The score remained close until the Royals used a 6-0 during a three minute stretch late in the first half to take a 28-22 lead at the 5:14 mark. Bethel out-rebounded the Gusties 14-7 on the offensive boards in the first 20 minutes turning those 14 offensive rebounds into 22 points. Seth Anderson converted two free throws as time expired in the first half giving the Gusties a 39-36 lead at the intermission.
The Gusties came out focused in the second half making five of their first six shots and increasing their lead to nine points at 53-44 at the 14:11 mark. Gustavus would maintain its 8-to-16 point lead for the rest of the contest with its biggest lead of the game (16 points) coming after a 3-point shot made by Reed Sallstrom with 10 seconds left in the game. Gustavus shot extremely well in the second half making 18-of-26 from the field (69.2 percent) including 7-of-10 from three-point range (70.0 percent).
Dan Schmidtknecht led a trio of Gustavus scorers who reached double figures with 17 points. Paul Blacklock added 14 points and Phil Wirtjes pitched in with 10. Bethel was led by Taylor Hall with 24 points.
With the win, the Gusties push their win streak to four games and improve their record to 10-5 overall and 8-2 in league play. Bethel falls to 4-11 overall and 1-9 in MIAC play.