The Gustavus men’s basketball team had won seven of its past eight games and had its sights set on making a late season run at St. Thomas for the MIAC title, but the road got a little tougher after the Gusties lost to a scrappy Macalester squad on Monday night in St. Peter by the score of 68-67. The Scots Pierce Peters hit two free throws with 23 seconds remaining to give Macalester a 68-67 lead and then the Scots made the lead hold up as they shut the Gusties down on two possessions in the final seconds. James Hill led Gustavus in scoring with 16 points.
Gustavus shot 53.1 percent (26-49) from the field and made 90.9 percent from the free throw line (10-11), but the Gusties committed 15 turnovers and allowed the Scots to grab 15 offensive rebounds, which helped Macalester offset the Gusties shooting advantage.
With 2:52 remaining in the first half, the score was tied 27-27, but Gustavus used an 11-3 run the rest of the way to take a 38-30 lead into the locker at the intermission. Early in the second half, it looked like the Gusties might begin to pull away from the Scots, when three quick baskets by Seth Anderson, Phil Wirtjes, and James Hill extended Gustavus’ lead to 11 points at 46-35 with 16:42 left in the game. Macalester, countered with a 12-0 run, aided by three Gustie turnovers, to take a 47-46 lead at the 12:34 mark. Back-to-back three-point baskets by Kyle Hamblett sparked the Scots big comeback.
Macalester maintained a slim lead over the next six minutes until a jumper by Hill allowed the Gusties to take a 61-60 lead at the 6:01 mark. The final six minutes of play would see the lead change hands four times with four ties. The Scots got a clutch three-point basket from Peters with 2:33 remaining, which gave Macalester a 66-65 lead. Gustavus took the lead back on the following possession thanks to two free throws by Seth Anderson making the score 67-66. Defense would take over for the final two minutes of play with the only points coming off of the two free throws by Peters with 23 seconds left. Gustavus had the ball trailing by one with 23 seconds left, but Phil Wirtjes’ layup was blocked by Lamont Diggs and Diggs was fouled by Wirtjes with 13 seconds left to play. Diggs was unable to convert two free attempts and the Gusties once again had the ball and the chance to win the game, but the Scots held on for the win as Dan Schmidtknecht’s three-point shot with 03 seconds remaining missed the mark.
It proved to be a costly setback for the Gusties as St. Olaf surprised St. Thomas in St. Paul and a Gustavus victory would have moved the Gusties to within one game of the first place Tommies.
Coach Mark Hanson’s squad will look to get back on the winning track on Wednesday with an important match-up against Hamline in St. Paul. The Pipers (8-5), who are currently in fourth place, one-and-a-half games behind the third place Gusties (10-4), slipped past Gustavus 94-89 in overtime on January 3 in St. Peter.