River Falls, Wis. – The Gustavus men’s basketball team’s 2011-12 season ended Friday night with a 68-60 loss to Wheaton College in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Building on a five point lead at halftime, the Thunder were able hold off a late second half Gustavus surge and hit shots when it mattered most. Gustavus concludes its season with an overall record of 20-8, while Wheaton improves to 22-6 and will play the winner of tonight’s UW-River Falls vs. Edgewood College matchup.
The strategy for the Thunder was clear from the start – get the ball on the blocks and go to work on the posts of Gustavus. After four field goals on layups, Wheaton was up 8-2.
Gustavus settled for jump shots in the early minutes, as Seth Anderson led the way by scoring eight of Gustavus’ first 10 points of the game, starting 4-for-6 from the field and knotting the game at 10-10 with 12:41 left in the half. A three-pointer by Jim Hill and a layup by Bobby Johnson gave Gustavus its largest lead of the game at 15-10 by the 11:09 mark.
After Johnson’s layup, the Gusties went on a scoring drought that would cost them the advantage in the first half. Tyler Grey was able to snap the skip at 6:32 and tie the game at 17-17 with a jumper. From there, Wheaton used a 5-0 run to lead 24-19 by the 2:28 point. Gustavus cut the lead to one point (24-23) with 1:21 left to play, and Wheaton’s Spencer Schultze answered with four points on a layup and two free throws to give the Thunder a 28-23 lead at the break.
Anderson led all scorers in the first half with 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Schultze led the Thunder with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Both squads went 1-for-4 from three-point range in the opening half, while Wheaton had the slight shooting advantage 41.4-to 39.3-percent.
The Gusties didn’t get the start they wanted in the opening minutes of the second half. A layup by Tyler Peters 1:33 into the half gave the Thunder a 34-23 edge. Gustavus came back to cut lead to five (34-29) with 16:20 left, yet Wheaton responded with a 9-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at 43-29 with 14:11 on the clock.
Gustavus began to slowly chip away at the lead following a pair of free throws by Anderson at the 13:08 mark. A layup by Blake Shay at the 7:53 mark narrowed the Thunder edge to 50-47 with 7:53 to play. Three points was as close as Gustavus came for the remainder of game. The Gusties cut the lead to four on four different occasions in the final five minutes of the game, yet every time they did, the Thunder answered with a basket. A three-pointer by Jeremy Pflederer at the 2:54 marke turned out to be the dagger, putting Wheaton on top 70-63. Two free-throws by Tim McCrary iced the game and brought the score to final at 68-60.
Wheaton outscored the Gusties 40-37 in the second half, shooting a hot 56-percent from the field. Seth Anderson and Jeremy Pflederer led their respective team with 10 points each in the second half. Anderson went 4-for-10 from the field and Pflederer was 3-for4 from the floor and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
Wheaton had the advantage both in the front-court and in the turnover department. Over half of the Thunder’s points were scored in the paint, as they outscored Gustavus 38-18 on the block. Wheaton scored 18 points off Gustavus’ 13 turnovers, while Gustavus scored seven points off 10 Wheaton turnovers.
Gustavus finished 24-for-60 (40%) from the field, 4-for-14 (28.6%) from three-point range, and 8-for-12 (66.7%) at the free throw line. Wheaton went 26-for-54 (48.1%) from the floor, 4-for-9 (44.4%) from three, and 12-for-19 (63.2%) a the charity stripe.
Wheaton’s Spencer Schultze scored a team-high 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while Pflederer (15pts, 5-8 FG), Tim McCrary (11 pts, 4-10 FG), and Tyler Peters (10 pts, 5-8) all finished in double figures.
Anderson concludes his senior season with a playoff-high 22 points on a 10-for-22 shooting performance. Jim Hill recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
With 22 points tonight, Seth Anderson falls just three points shy of Gustavus’ single-season scoring record of 604 points held by Luke Schmidt in the 1997-98 season. Anderson’s 240 total field goals this season is also the second-most by a Gustavus player in a season. Schmidt holds that record as well with 245 field goals.