The Gustavus men’s basketball team extended its winning streak to five games with a hard-fought 67-59 win over Saint Mary’s in Winona on Saturday afternoon. Phil Wirtjes and Dan Schmidtknecht each scored 13 points to lead the Gusties who improved to 11-5 overall and 9-2 in the MIAC.
The Gusties got off to a quick start and led 20-7 midway through the first half, however the Cardinals responded with an 18-7 run over the next six minutes to cut the Gustavus lead to two points at 27-25 at the 4:24 mark. Seth Anderson’s layup with 10 seconds left gave the Gusties a 33-30 lead at halftime.
The second half was close from the start with three ties in the first four minutes of play. Despite the ties, however the Gusties did not ever surrender the lead in the second half. Gustavus held a six-point lead at 49-43 midway through the half and claimed its largest lead of the half at eight points at 61-53 with 4:45 left to play. The Cardinals pulled to within four points at 63-59, but the Gusties made four consecutive free throws down the stretch to hold on for the 67-59 victory.
Coach Mark Hanson thought the team played well despite the unusually physical play during the game. “I told our guys that we appreciated the way they fought through the very physical style of the game.” He added, “Outside of giving up 12 offensive rebounds, which was a concern, I thought we played well defensively. If you hold a team to 40 percent shooting you are doing your job. They are team that wants to drive and I thought we took away their driving lanes pretty well.”
Balanced scoring was also a key for the Gusties as four players reached double figures including Wirtjes and Schmidtknecht with 13 points each and Bobby Johnson and Seth Anderson with 12 points each. Junior Paul Blacklock contributed four points and grabbed nine rebounds, while also turning in a strong defensive performance against the Cardinals leading scorer Chris Palmer. Blacklock was pleased with how the team played. “I thought it was a good all-around effort. We scored on key possessions in the second half and followed those key scores with defensive stops, which is a good recipe for success.”
Gustavus will get Monday off and then return to action on Wednesday against St. Olaf in Northfield. Gametime is 7:30 pm and the broadcast can be heard on 95.5 FM KRDS with the play-by-play by Tom Wheeler.