St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus men’s basketball team used a strong start and clutch shooting in the second half to defeat Saint John’s 64-52 in the semifinals of the MIAC Playoffs on Friday night at Gus Young Court. Paul Blacklock’s season-high 14-rebound and four-block performance in the front-court was complimented by Tyler Grey’s 14-point, 5-for-7 shooting performance on the perimeter.
“Its a good win against a tough team. Burns and Barmore are great players and we knew they weren’t going to go away quietly,” said senior post Paul Blacklock. “Everyone contributed and knocked down shots for us tonight and that’s what you want to see in the playoffs.”
With the victory, Gustavus advances to the MIAC Playoff Championship and will face St. Thomas on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in St. Paul. This will be the third-straight year that Gustavus has advanced to the MIAC Championship game, falling 78-71 to Carleton in 2009 and 83-77 to St. Thomas last season. Gustavus reaches the 20-win milestone for the first time since the 2004-05 season, improving to 20-6 with the victory. The Johnnies end their season with an overall mark of 16-11.
Following a jumper by Chris Orgas that put the Johnnies on top 5-4 at the 16:33 mark of the first half, the first of Tyler Grey’s three triples on the night would give the Gusties a 7-5 edge and would prove to be the final lead change of the game.
Gustavus would open up a 15-9 lead at the 11:36 mark and a 22-14 advantage with 6:58 to play. The Gustie defense would put the clamps down in the final portion of the opening half, holding the Johnnies at 16 points for the final 5:09 of the half. A pair of free throws by Bobby Johnson with :46 seconds left put Gustavus on top 29-16 heading into the locker room.
Grey and Ben Biewen led all scorers in the first half with six points each. Ten of Blacklocks’ 14 total rebounds in the game came in the first half, as Gustavus shot 43.5-percent from the field. The Johnnies shot just 28-percent and were led by Chris Neumann who scored five points.
“I thought Seth controlled the game really well in the second half and when we needed a bucket, he got us one,” commented Head Coach Mark Hanson. “It was nice to shoot a little better in the second half and I think our defense was solid through most of the night. The shots they made were really tough shots that are hard to defend because if you try to defend them, you end up give up a lot more.”
Gustavus shot a hot 12-for-18 from the floor in the second half. Anderson led the way with nine points after going a perfect 4-for-4 from the field.
Grey also didn’t miss a shot in the second half either. He went 3-for-3 and knocked down a big three-pointer (40-29), and converted a reverse layup on consecutive possessions to put Gustavus on top 42-30 with 12:21 to play. Grey’s three snapped a near four-minute scoring drought in which the Johnnies made a 10-1 run.
When Saint John’s appeared to be making a run with under ten-minutes to play, Gustavus always seemed to have an answer. After two free throws by Aaron Barmore cut the lead to 47-39 (8:29), Grey answered with a jumper on the following possession to go back up 49-39. After an Andy Burns layup cut the lead to eight (49-41) once again at 7:58, Anderson followed suit with a jumper on the next possession to bring the score to 51-41. Barmore would close the gap to within single-digits at 51-42 once more with a free throw at 6:28. Anderson once again responded with a basket on the ensuing possession to give Gustavus a 55-42 lead.
The Johnnies could not close the gap down the stretch, as they would trail 62-45 with 1:30 remaining. Saint John’s shot 39.3-percent in the half and was led by Burns who scored 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Gustavus improved on its 38-percent night in the regular season-finale against Bethel with a 53.7-percent (22-41) shooting performance tonight. The Gusties shot a season-high 71.4-percent (5-7) from three-point range, and 68.2-percent (15-22) at the line.
Also scoring double-figures for Gustavus was Blake Shay with 12 points, going 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from three-point range while adding four free throws.
Saint John’s finished the game shooting 34-percent (18-53) from the field, 22.7-percent (5-22) from three, and 64.7-percent (11-17) at the stripe. Burns led Saint John’s with 16 points (5-14), while Barmore contributed a double-double with 11 points (3-7) and 10 rebounds.
“We’re going into a very tough place to play against a very good team, a team that has so-called had our number the last few years,” said senior guard Tyler Grey. “We’re looking forward to it, we’re excited about it, and we’re ready to go.