St. Peter, Minn. – Trailing 9-2 after the opening five minutes of the game, the Gustavus men’s basketball team took off on a 22-0 run that lasted 11 and a half minutes of the first half on Saturday afternoon at Gus Young Court. The stretch proved to be the difference in a 57-39 victory over Carleton College, as the Knights could not recover from the drought. The Gusties took a 28-14 lead into halftime and led by as many as 25 points in the second half before cruising to the 18-point victory.
“We played pretty well,” mentioned Chad Poppen (So., St. Peter, Minn.). “We started out slow, which we have made a habit of the last few games, but we played well defensively through that stretch and that is what kept us in the game. Eventually we pulled it together on offense and got on a roll.”
Gustavus found itself at a 9-2 disadvantage following the first five minutes of the game, as the Gusties began just 1 for 8 from the floor, compared to a 4 of 6 start for Carleton. It was the fourth consecutive game that Gustavus has fell in an early hole. This time, the Gustie men responded with a 22-0 run that began with a Peter Kruize (Fr., St. Peter, Minn.) free throw and concluded with a Brody Ziegler (So., Mankato, Minn.) jumper.
The stretch was ignited by full-court pressure put on by the Gustavus defense, energizing its members on both ends of the floor. The run lasted for a total of 11 and a half minutes, saw seven different Gusties score, and gave Gustavus a 24-9 lead with 5:10 remaining in the opening frame. Brian Jacobs (Jr., Lake Crystal, Minn.) led the charge with seven points and also added an assist.
On top of the run, the Gusties also held the Knights scoreless for nearly 12 minutes before Mitchell Biewen finally stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer at the 3:09 mark. Gustavus would lead by as many as 16 points (28-12) in the remaining three minutes of the half before taking a 14-point lead (28-14) to the break.
“We have been missing shots,” joked Head Coach Mark Hanson of the reason for his team’s slow starts as of late. “I don’t know why we have been starting so slow. If I did, I would have fixed it a long time ago. I think we have had pretty good shots, but maybe they are just pretty good instead of really good or we need to be more intentional about getting the ball inside to see the ball go in right away. Today it felt good to not let it get to double-digits and instead go on a little run ourselves.”
Gustavus opened the second half on another run, this time a 13-3 stretch that extended its lead to 24 points (41-17) with 16:32 remaining. The Gusties would coast the rest of the way, leading by as many as 25 points (49-24) in the half before settling for the 18-point victory.
For the game, Gustavus shot 48 percent (24-50) from the field, while holding Carleton to just 33.3 percent (15-45) shooting. The Gusties also finished with a 33-24 advantage in rebounding. Saturday also marked the first time that Gustavus held a team under 40 points in a game since Jan. 5th, 2009, when the Gusties held Macalester to 37 points in a 91-37 win.
Brian Jacobs led all scorers with a career-high 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the field, including a 2 for 4 mark from three-point range. He also knocked down both of his two free throw attempts.
“Brian played well on both ends of the floor. It is easy to look at statistics and think that he played well because he scored a bunch of points, but he did nice things on the defensive end as well. He seemed comfortable offensively.”
Joining Jacobs in double-figure scoring for the Gusties were Peter Kruize and Chad Poppen. Kruize finished with 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting, while Poppen tied his career high with 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting, including a perfect 2 for 2 mark from downtown. The sophomore’s 10 points tonight came after being held to just five points in his last five games.
“It felt good to get a couple shots to go today,” admitted Poppen. “I had been struggling for a few games, so it was great to see a few go through the hoop. Sometimes it is a small thing like seeing the ball go in that can get you going.”
“He needed that,” added Hanson. “In fact, when he came out I asked him who he thought was happier: him or me. His response was, ‘It has to be me,’ but I told him there was no way. He needed it and I think the team needed him to have that day to take the monkey off his back.”
Gustavus’s leading rebounder was Brody Ziegler with seven. Although leading scorer Jordan Dick (Sr., Wabasha, Minn.) was held scoreless for the first time this season, he handed out a team-high three assists.
John Eckert led the Knights in scoring with nine points on just 2 of 4 shooting from the field, but converted on 5 of his 6 chances at the free throw line. He also pulled down four rebounds and dished out a team-high three assists.
Gustavus will next travel to St. Paul, Minn., to take on No. 11 St. Thomas on Wednesday, Jan. 15th. Wednesday’s opening tip is set for 7:30 p.m.
“We have to take care of the ball. When we can limit our turnovers we set ourselves up for success. The same thing goes for creating good shots, and we also can’t allow them to go on big runs like they have historically done against us.”