St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus men’s basketball team shot 60-percent (30-for-50) from the field and saw three players in double figures on its way to an 83-63 season-opening win over Bethany Lutheran College on Saturday at Gus Young Court. The Gusties start their season 1-0, while the Vikings drop to 0-2.
The Vikings scored on the opening possession of the game to take a 2-0 lead. From there, they would lead only once more at the 15:25 mark with the score 9-8. With 14:44 to play in the first half, Ben Biewen (Sr., Edina, Minn.) nailed a jumper from the top of the key before getting fouled. Biewen would sink the ensuing free throw to give the Gusties a 12-9 lead and they would never look back.
Biewen’s old-fashion three-point play sparked a 15-4 Gustavus run that pushed the Gustie lead to as much as 11 with 5:32 to play in the first half. Jim Hill (Sr., Edina, Minn.) scored a total of eight points in the run, including six straight, to give the Gusties the cushion they needed.
The Gustavus defense was stingy throughout the first 20 minutes. It gave up just 20 points on a 27.6-percent (8-for-29) clip from the field, and forced nine Bethany turnovers. “I was proud of how we played defensively in the first half,” stated Hill. “Earlier this week, we had a scrimmage against a very similar dribble-drive offense like Bethany and we didn’t contain the dribble very well, so we wanted to focus and improve on that. Bethany can hurt you by driving and kicking out for threes, so the fact that we were able to contain the dribble and keep them from getting open three-pointers was big for us.”
Despite allowing their opponent to shoot 68-percent after the intermission, the Gusties were still able to outscore the Vikings 49-43 in the second half thanks to a 72.7-percent shooting percentage of their own. Gustavus would make 6-of-8 three-point tries in the second half, finishing the game 8-for-15 from behind the arc for 53.3-percent. The shooting clinic in the second 20 minutes proved to be enough as the Gusties strolled to the 20-point victory.
One year removed from Seth Anderson’s record-setting 45-point performance in last year’s season opener, the Gusties used more balanced scoring in Saturday’s win. Gustavus got scoring contributions from nine players, including three in double figures. Ben Biewen led the way after making a case for a triple-double in his 2012-13 debut. The senior scored a career-high 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists, as well as four steals on the afternoon.
Fellow seniors Jim Hill and Blake Shay (Sr., Lakeville, Minn.) followed Biewen with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Hill was nearly perfect on the day, shooting 7-for-8 from the field and 4-for-6 from the free throw line. Shay shot 6-for-11 from the field, including a 2-for-4 clip form three-point range in his career-high scoring performance.
“Balanced scoring is something that we expected would be the case this year,” mentioned Hill. “We have a lot of guys that can score who feel like it is their turn to step up and contribute on the offensive end.”
Saturday’s 60-percent shooting performance is the best field goal percentage in a season-opener since the 2006-07 season when the Gusties shot 65-percent (26-for-40) in a 76-68 win over Luther College on Nov. 18th, 2006. A great shooting performance is often coupled by great passing, as seen on Saturday afternoon. Of Gustavus’ 30 field goals, 22 were assisted.
“In order to shoot well, you have to create good shots,” explained head coach Mark Hanson. “Outside of a few shots around the basket that I think we could have taken stronger, I was pleased with the shots we created.”
The Gusties also got key contributions from a number of underclassmen getting their first action. Following the graduation of seven seniors and 65-percent of its offense from last year’s squad, Gustavus is going to expect production from players who have not seen much of the floor thus far in their career. Jordan Dick (Jr., Wabasha, Minn.) scored seven points to go along with three assists in his first collegiate start, while Isaac Tapp (So., Stewartville, Minn.) notched five points, four rebounds, and three assists, in his debut as a starter. Off the bench, Brian Jacobs (So., Lake Crystal, Minn.) added seven points and Martin Feddersen (So., Winona, Minn.) recorded four steals.
“We have a lot of guys who played serious minutes for the first time tonight. Not only our first-years, but sophomores as well, so it was great to see them step up and play well,” Hill acknowledged.
“It was nice to see some people in their first true varsity action do well and feel good about what they were able to do,” added Hanson. “It is a good start for those guys.”
The Gusties will be back in action on Tuesday, Nov. 20th when they travel to Menomonie, Wis., to play UW-Stout in their final non-conference tune-up before starting conference play. Tip-off for that game is set for 8:00 p.m.
“They return a lot from a team that beat us here last year,” Hanson finished. “They are a part of a tough league, as is ours, so any match-up between the two is likely to be a good game.”