St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus men’s basketball team got a much-needed spark from its bench Wendnesday night in a 76-65 victory over Macalester at Gus Young Court. After trailing by as many as nine points midway through the first half, the Gustie bench picked up the energy on both ends of the floor to give Gustavus the spark it needed to pull out the 11-point victory. The Gustie bench outscored its counterpart 17-to-3 in the game on the way the Gustavus’ sixth win of the season. Gustavus is now 6-5 (4-3 MIAC), while Macalester moves to 3-8 (0-6 MIAC).
“It was a good win tonight,” said Gustavus senior Reed Sallstrom (Sr., Winthrop, Minn.). “We started off a little slow, they were hitting some threes, but we had a good, strong second half to pull out the win.”
The Scots came out firing on all cylinders, making each of their first seven shots of the contest to jump out to an eight-point lead with the score 17-9 just five minutes into the game. Dylan Kilgour hit three three-pointers and added a layup to score 11 of the first 17 Macalester points. The Scot lead was extended to nine, the largest of the game, on a Kyle Bernhard three-pointer with 10:24 remaining in the opening half.
When Jim Hill (Sr., Edina, Minn.) picked up his second foul at the 8:13 mark, the Gusties were forced to go to their bench. Almost simultaneously, Gustavus picked up its energy on both ends of the court and came charging back to take a three-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
“Our bench was key for us when we ran into some foul trouble in the first half,” stated head coach Mark Hanson. “Martin Feddersen, who was one of those in foul trouble in the first half, gave us some spark in the second half helping pick up the defense. Brody Ziegler and Chad Poppen did a real nice job off the bench as well.”
After making their first seven shots, the Scots shot 60.9-percent (14-23) in the first half, including a 54.5-percent (6-11) mark from behind the three-point line. The Gusties kept pace with a 61.5-percent (16-26) mark of their own while shooting 37.5-percent (3-8) from three-point land and 80-percent (4-5) from the free throw line. Coach Hanson accredited the good shooting performance to good ball movement.
“When we moved the ball well, we created really good shots,” mentioned Hanson. “There were times I thought we got a little anxious and tried to force a few things. Hopefully we can reduce those because St. Thomas won’t let us off the hook if we don’t.”
The second half saw three ties, but the Scots would not lead for the remainder of the game. Despite cold shooting of their own, the Gusties were able to hold Macalester to just 29 second-half points on 39.3-percent (11-28) shooting from the field and a cold 28.6-percent (2-7) mark from behind the arc. Gustavus shot just 33.3-percent (8-24), and an identical 28.6-percent (2-7) from three-point range in the second 20 minutes. However, the Gusties took advantage of eight offensive rebounds in the final frame to outscore Macalester 8-3 in second chance points. Gustavus outscored Macalester 16-10 in the category for the game.
Ben Biewen (Sr., Edina, Minn.) led the Gusties with 19 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Despite shooting just 5-for-14 from the field, Biewen made good on 8-of-9 free throws, all of which came in the second half. Three other Gusties found themselves in double-figures on the night. Jim Hill, Isaac Tapp (So., Stewartville, Minn.) and Reed Sallstrom all chipped in to score 11 points each. Hill shot 4-for-7 from the floor and also grabbed three rebounds. Likewise, Tapp made 4-of-7 field goal attempts, including 3-for-3 from deep. Meanwhile, Sallstrom shot 3-for-5 from the floor and a perfect 5-for-5 from the stripe, while also snatching five rebounds. Brody Ziegler (Fr., Mankato, Minn.) came off the bench to pitch in seven points and six rebounds.
With the win, the Gusties will travel to St. Paul for a showdown with MIAC-leader St. Thomas on Wednesday. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m. at Schoenecker Arena.
“St. Thomas is a top-five team in the country, so we have to do a lot of things right,” finished Sallstrom. “They play fast, they are big, strong, and physical, so we need to bring our best game to beat them on Wednesday.”