St. Peter, Minn. – The phrase “a tale of two halves,” is often used loosely to describe a game in which one team shines in the first 20 minutes of the contest while the other excels in the final 20 minutes. The tale that unfolded at Gus Young Court on Saturday afternoon, however, was a little different.
In a first half that, at times, felt more like a track meet, the Gustavus men’s basketball team ran stride-for-stride with a Buena Vista team that came into this afternoon’s game averaging 95 points per game over the last three games. Not only did the Gusties run with the Beavers, they also took a 43-42 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Gustavus shot a blistering 61.5-percent (16-26) from the field, including a 50-percent (5-10) clip from behind the three-point line. Likewise, the Beavers shot an identical 50-percent (5-10) from three-point range, and made an equal 16 field goals although their shooting percentage was just 47.1-percent (16-34).
As the second half approached, one question emerged: were we headed for another 98-96 barn-burner similar to last year? The two teams, however, seemed to have a different outcome in mind.
After an back-and-forth first half, the two squads settled in to their half-court offenses in the second. Blistering shooting in the first half for the Gusties seemed to reflect the temperature outside after halftime. They would go on to shoot just 24.1-percent (7-29) from the field in the final frame. Following the typical “tale of two halves,” one would think that Buena Vista would take advantage of Gustavus’ cold shooting and seemingly make everything. However, that was not the case in this tale, as the Beavers shot just 32.1-percent (9-28) in the final 20 minutes.
On two separate occasions, neither team could score for more than 2:30. At the 9:03 mark, Buena Vista’s Michael Kaufmann hit a jumper to give the Beavers a five-point lead. A scoreless stretch of 2:39 followed that was finally broken when Tyler Pleiss made a free throw to extend the Beavers’ lead to six. It wasn’t until Brody Ziegler (Fr., Mankato, Minn.) tipped in an offensive rebound at the 5:45 mark that a field goal was made.
Similarly, Buena Vista’s Wes Nordquist started a 3:43 drought when he converted on a layup at the 4:20 mark. The basket put the Beavers on top by four with a score 66-62. Jordan Dick (Jr., Wabasha, Minn.) finally broke the seal on the basket when he cashed in on a driving layup to cut the lead to two with :37 seconds remaining.
The Gusties were able to cut the lead to a single point with :06 seconds remaining. Two free throws from Troy Ticknor brought the lead back up to three with a score of 69-66. Gustavus was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded as the Beavers escaped with the three-point victory.
“We didn’t make some shots in the second half,” stated head coach Mark Hanson. “And we turned the ball over at some inopportune times that let them go on a couple of runs. We have to find a way to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The Gusties were led by Ben Biewen (Sr., Edina, Minn.), who registered a team-high 18 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field and an 8-for-10 mark from the free throw line. Jim Hill (Sr., Edina, Minn.) notched his second career double-double with 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Blake Shay (Sr., Lakeville, Minn.) also scored in double figures with 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting from the floor and 3-for-5 from three-point range. Off the bench, Gustavus got contributions from Brody Ziegler and Reed Sallstrom (Sr., Winthrop, Minn.). Ziegler pulled down a career-high seven rebounds to go along with four points, two assists and two blocks in 17 minutes. Meanwhile, Sallstrom chipped in six points and five rebounds.
Buena Vista saw two players in double figures. Wes Nordquist led the way for the Beavers with 23 points and 16 rebounds. The senior shot 8-for-19 from the field and 7-for-9 from the charity stripe. Brett Heitkamp followed Nordquist with 12 points and six rebounds. He went 5-for-6 from the field on the afternoon.
Although on the wrong end of the outcome, Hanson is optimistic about his team’s effort. “We battled, and we always will,” he declared. “It’s disappointing to have a number of single-digit losses that come down to missed free throws or a turnover here or there that can turn it around. We just need to make those happen in our favor.”
The Gusties will be back on the floor following the holiday season. They travel to Eau Claire, Wis. to take on UW-Superior on Friday, Dec. 28 and will turn around to play UW-Eau Claire on Saturday, Dec. 29. Both games have a scheduled tipoff of 5:00 p.m.