St. Peter, Minn. - Despite nearly giving the game away in the final minute, the Gustavus men’s basketball team was able to hold off St. Olaf for a 64-63 victory on Gus Young Court. The Gusties shot 57.7-percent in the second half, building a nine-point lead (62-53) with 4:24 left to play and holding on late for the one-point victory.
Gustavus, who heads into an off weekend after facing three top-three MIAC teams consecutively in St. Thomas, Augsburg, and St. Olaf, improves to 15-5 overall and 12-3 in the MIAC. St. Olaf sees its three-game winning-streak come to an end, dropping to 11-9 overall and 10-5 in the MIAC.
“It’s a nice win. St. Olaf is an outstanding team,” complimented Head Coach Mark Hanson. “They are difficult to defend because even if you take away what they want to accomplish offense, individually, they can make things happen. Where a lot of teams need to be able to score from their offense, St. Olaf has three players who can get shots off anytime they want.
After trailing for over 10-minutes of the second half, an offensive rebound by Seth Anderson created the opportunity for Ben Biewen to knock down a three-pointer and put Gustavus up 52-51. The bucket by Biewen would ignite an 11-0 run that put Gustavus on top 60-51with 6:09 left to play. Five different Gusties scored inside the run, as St. Olaf was held scoreless for an over five-minute span.
Leading 62-53 with 4:24 on the clock, the Gustavus defense was still clicking, holding the Oles to just two points in over three-minutes of play. It was at that point – with Gustavus up 62-56 with :51 seconds remaining – that free throw shooting started to become an issue for Gustavus. The Black and Gold went 2-for-7 at the charity stripe in the final :50 seconds, allowing St. Olaf to cut the lead to one point (64-63) with :09 ticks left. A pair of misses by Jim Hill at the line led to a deep three-point look for Nathan Kuck at the buzzer. Kuck’s shot went long and the Gusties were able to hold on for their fourth-straight victory.
“I guess we should probably make more free throws,” joked Hanson. “Three out of eight isn’t usually going to get it done, but fortunately, they didn’t shoot free throws especially well either.”
Ben Biewen was Gustavus’ top scorer on the night, throwing in 18 points (11 of which came in the second half), matching his season-high, and adding five rebounds. Biewen finished 7-of-12 from the field and 2-for-3 from three-point range.
After four lead changes in the first half, the two squads headed for the locker rooms with St. Olaf on top 31-30. Stu Neville led St. Olaf with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, while Seth Anderson scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Neville finished the game with a team-high 20 points (8-18), while Anderson totaled 17 points (8-15).
The Gusties finished the game 29-for-55 (52.7%) from the floor, 3-for-8 (37.5%) from three-point range, and 3-for-8 (37.5%) at the line. St. Olaf went 26-for-64 (40.6%) from the field, 5-for-23 (21.7%) from three, and 6-for-12 (50%) at the stripe.
St. Olaf outrebounded Gustavus 39-to-29 in the game, a stat that could have been more lopsided if it weren’t for the play of Paul Blacklock. Blacklock turned in another solid all-around performance, scoring 10 points, bringing down seven boards, making two steals and blocking three shots.
A total of 12 turnovers were committed in the contest as both Gustavus and St. Olaf tallied six in what was a very clean game from start to finish. Gustavus is averaging just 10.4 turnovers per game this season.
After a grueling schedule to close out the month of January and begin February, Gustavus gets a break this weekend, something Blacklock and coach Hanson agree the team is ready for.
“It is a much-needed time off for us right now,” said Blacklock about the upcoming bye. “We have had three physical games against three of the top teams in the MIAC. We came away with wins in all three, accomplishing our goal, but it is a good time for us to get some rest and heal up some bumps and bruises.”
Hanson added, “This was a tough, physical, and mentally difficult week and its nice to have been successful in it. We are going to practice a couple days and take a couple days off so we can get our legs back a bit and be ready for the last couple weeks.”
The first place Gusties will be back on the hardwood Wednesday, Sept. 8 with a road test against Saint Mary’s at 7:30 p.m. in Winona, Minn.