St. Peter, Minn. – Following a 68-63 loss to the University of St. Thomas, Gustavus head men’s basketball coach Mark Hanson said it best with his comment, “It was a battle.” The Gusties stood toe-to-toe with the No. 1-ranked Tommies throughout, but a 25-5 run to open the second half for St. Thomas proved to be too much for the Black and Gold as the Tommies escaped with the five-point victory. Gustavus drops to 12-10 (10-8 MIAC) while St. Thomas improves to 22-1 (17-1 MIAC).
Like two heavyweight fighters in a boxing ring, the two teams went back-and-forth in the first half. For every field goal, there was an answer. For every turnover, there was a steal on the other end. Both teams played tough, physical, scrappy, and aggressive in the first 20 minutes of play. Neither team could hold a lead of more than five points until Chad Poppen (Fr., St. Peter, Minn.) knocked down a three-pointer from the baseline with 1:27 to play in the opening half to push the score to 33-27 in favor of the Gusties.
After a back-and-forth first half, St. Thomas came out on fire in the second frame. The Tommies exploded on a 25-5 run to begin the last 20 minutes that opened up a 14-point lead with a score of 52-38. St. Thomas’ Will DeBerg played the role of bookend in the run. The senior opened the surge with a three-pointer from the wing and capped off the run with a deep three from beyond NBA range at the top of the key. In between, DeBerg hit three more triples and added a layup for a total of 17 points in the opening 5:29 of the final frame.
The two teams then traded baskets for the next two minutes until the Gusties began to chip away at the Tommie lead. Jim Hill (Sr., Edina, Minn.) scored back-to-back baskets to cut the deficit to nine points (56-47) with 11:16 to go and the comeback was on. A three-point basket by Ben Biewen (Sr., Edina, Minn.) with 2:23 remaining cut the lead to three points with the score 64-61.
However, the Tommies got an inside basket from Tommy Hannon that all but put the game out of reach with :38 seconds remaining. After a layup on the next possession, the Gusties were forced to foul and DeBerg made both free throws to seal the 68-63 victory.
“We threw the ball away a little bit in the first five minutes of the second half and DeBerg knocked down some threes,” acknowledged Coach Hanson. “They are a good team and good teams go on runs like that. It was too big of a run for us to handle in the scope of the whole game, but I felt like our guys battled. We made it a one-possession game that unfortunately didn’t go our way.”
For the game, Gustavus shot 48.2-percent (27-56) from the floor and 42.9-percent (6-14) from three-point range compared to 50.9-percent (27-53) and 47.1-percent (8-17), respectively, for St. Thomas. The Gusties did, however, hold the rebounding advantage. They outrebounded the Tommies 33-26 on the night.
Gustavus was led in scoring by Jim Hill, who notched his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ben Biewen dropped in 14 points and Jordan Dick (Jr., Wabasha, Minn.) added 11 on 5-for-7 shooting from the flield.
Will DeBerg led the way for St. Thomas in scoring with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the floor, which included a 5-for-11 mark from deep. John Nance was the only other Tommie to score in double-figures with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
Wednesday night also marked Senior Night at Gus Young Court. Four seniors played their final regular season home game in a Gustie uniform. A special tribute was made before the game to these individuals who have dedicated themselves to the Gustavus men’s basketball program for the past four years. The Athletic Department would like to extend a sincere thank you to seniors Ben Biewen, Jim Hill, Reed Sallstrom (Sr., Winthrop, Minn.), and Blake Shay (Sr., Lakeville, Minn.).
“They are a special group of young men,” mentioned Hanson. “They are special because of who they are, not just because they are good basketball players. They have great personalities, they have worked hard, they have cared about this program, their teammates, and each other. They have done everything we have asked them to do and it has been a joy to coach them. Hopefully we get to coach them for more than just two more games.”
The Gusties will now have a week off before they return to action Wednesday, Feb. 13th against Carleton. That game is set for a 7:30 p.m. opening tip in Northfield.