Eau Claire, Wis. – The Gustavus men’s basketball team topped UW-Eau Claire by the score of 61-47 on Saturday night to finish the Eau Claire Holiday Classic unbeaten after a 71-60 victory over UW-Superior last night. The Gusties held the Blugolds to 32.7-percent (17-for-52) shooting from the field for the game on the way to the 14-point victory. Gustavus improves to 4-5 on the year. UW-Eau Claire falls to 6-7 overall.
A tightly contested first six minutes saw the Blugolds on top 8-7 at the 13:45 mark of the first half. It proved to be the last lead for UW-Eau Claire, as Gustavus exploded on a 14-0 run that boosted the Gusties to an early 13-point lead. From there, Gustavus would never look back.
The run was sparked by a Ben Biewen (Sr., Edina, Minn.) three-pointer with 13:29 remaining in the opening frame. Brody Ziegler (Fy., Mankato, Minn.) came off the bench to pour in back-to-back jumpers to extend the Gustie lead to six at 14-8. At the 10:49 mark, Isaac Tapp (So., Stewartville, Minn.) converted an and-one at the free throw line after being fouled on a layup. Jim Hill (Sr., Edina, Minn.) and Reed Sallstrom (Sr., Winthrop, Minn.) hit jumpers on consecutive possessions to cap the run and extend the lead to 13 at 21-8 with 8:43 to play in the first 20 minutes.
The Gusties would push their lead to as many as 19 in the first half on a Biewen jumper with 3:45 to go in the first. It would prove to be the largest lead of the game for the Black and Gold. UW-Eau Claire put together a 6-2 run over the final minutes of the opening frame to cut the Gustie lead to 15 heading to halftime with a score of 34-19. The Blugolds shot just 32-percent (8-for-25) compared to 54.2-percent (13-for-24) for the Gusties. UW-Eau Claire turned the ball over eight times in the half, which lead to 10 Gustavus points.
Gustavus held on to its double-figure lead for much of the second half despite cooling off from the field. UW-Eau Claire was able to cut the lead to single digits just once in the frame, which came on a free throw from Nick Craggs. Two possessions later, Hill connected on 2-of-2 free throws, and the Gusties were back in control. Gustavus shot just 31.6-percent (6-for-19) from the field, but cashed in on 73.7-percent (14-for-19) of its free throws to seal the 14-point victory.
Ben Biewen led the way for the Gusties. Biewen scored 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field including 2-for-2 from three-point range and 2-for-3 from the free throw line. He also added three rebounds and three assists. Isaac Tapp came next with 13 points going a perfect 5-for-5 from the charity stripe, while Jim Hill was the only other Gustie to record double-figures with 10 points. Despite shooting just 2-for-9 from the field, Hill went 6-for-8 from the line. For the second night in a row, Brody Ziegler provided a career-best off the bench. The first-year bested his seven-point performance from last night with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Lewis Mau led all scorers in the game with 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including three treys. Nick Craggs was the only other Blugold in double-figures with 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Craggs also pulled down 12 rebounds to record the double-double.
The Gusties will be back in action Wednesday, January 2nd when they travel to Winona for a 7:30 tip-off with Saint Mary’s University.