Using its best defensive performance of the season, the Gustavus men’s basketball team defeated Saint John’s 63-49 on Wednesday night in St. Peter, Minn. With last season’s 96-88 overtime loss to the Johnnies still fresh in the minds of their returners, the Gusties were able to keep the pressure on and finish after a strong first half, improving to 8-4 overall and 5-2 within league play. Saint John’s sees its six-game winning-streak come to an end, falling to 8-4 overall and 4-3 in the MIAC.
Gustavus’ Biewen knocked down a jumper to take an early 4-3 lead and it was all Gustavus from that point. The Gusties started out the game 7-for-10 from the field and leading 16-3 by the 12:50 mark. A Biewen three-pointer at the 8:50 mark gave Gustavus its largest lead of the game at 24-5. Ben Biewen led the Gusties in scoring in the first half with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
The Gusties would be stuck on the 24-point mark for over an over six-minute time-span during the second stage of the half. The Johnnies used the scoring-drought to make an 11-0 run and cut the lead to 24-16 (2:58). Seth Anderson came off the bench to put an end the drought by hitting a jumper at 2:41 to give Gustavus a 26-16 edge. A layup by Saint John’s Otto Pfefferle brought the score to 31-20 at halftime.
Anderson joined Biewen in double-figures with 11 points (5-9) in the first half. Gustavus shot .500 (13-26) from the field, while Saint John’s shot a cold .280 (7-25).
“Saint John’s is a good offensive team and, especially in the first ten minutes, we made things difficult for them. Even the rest of the first half we forced them to make tough baskets. By the end of the game, that wears on a team,” said Head Coach Mark Hanson.
Gustavus kept the pressure on to start the second half, taking a 36-25 lead on a jumper by Anderson at the 16:59 mark. A pair of free throws by Johnnie Chris Neumann two minutes later cut the lead to six (38-32). Gustavus responded with an 8-1 run (46-33) that was capped off by back-to-back three pointers by Ty Moore. Moore finished with a career-high 11 points in the game. He went 4-for-5 from the field and 3-3 from three-point range.
“I had to redeem myself after last game,” said Ty Moore his career-performance. “I thought I played pretty bad on Saturday and wanted to come out and give a better effort. My teammates looked for me tonight and I was able to hit down some shots.”
The Johnnies would bring the score to within single digits at 52-43 with 7:43 remaining, yet a bucket by Biewen at 6:49 sparked an 8-0 run that put Gustavus up 60-43 with 2:24 left. Gustavus did not allow a Saint John’s field goal for over five minutes inside the run.
“Tonight we came out and dictated the pace and it started with our defense. Coach challenged us all week to step up on the defensive end and I thought we stepped up tonight,” added Moore.
Gustavus made a giant lead in the three-point department, sinking a season-high 8-of-16 (.500) triples.
“We haven’t had a lot of those this year,” joked Hanson about Gustavus’ shooting performance from beyond the arc. “Hopefully that makes us feel a little more confident in taking them. I was pleased with the three-pointers we created, and to see some fall opened up some other areas as well. “
The Gusties went 26-for-51 (.510) from the field and 3-for-6 (.500) at the line. Gustavus turned over the ball a season-low six times and outrebounded the Johnnies 30-to-26.
Seth Anderson went 9-for-17 for 20 points to lead the Gusties, while Ben Biewen finished with 15 points (6-10) and four rebounds. Tyler Grey led the team with five boards, and Adam Michel dished out a team-high five assists.
Saint John’s was led by Andy Burns who scored 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Chris Neumann went 8-for-8 from the free throw line for 10 points.
Saint John’s was limited to just 16-of-48 (33.3%) shooting in the game. The Johnnies went 4-for-15 (26.7%) from three-point range and 13-for-17 (76.5%) at the line.
The Gustavus men’s basketball team will hit the road to take on Macalester College on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 3:00 p.m. in St. Paul.