St. Peter, Minn. – Trailing by three points (75-72) with 10 seconds remaining, the Gustavus men’s basketball team could not score on its final possession, as St. Olaf forced the Gusties into an off-balance three-point attempt and proceeded to seal a 77-72 win with a pair of free throws on Saturday afternoon at Gus Young Court.
St. Olaf jumped out to an early 18-4 lead, making each of its first seven shots to start the game. The Gusties clawed back to take a one-point lead (55-54) with 9:19 to play in the second half, but could not complete the comeback, as an Ole score on the ensuing possession proved to be the final lead change of the afternoon.
Jordan Dick (Sr., Wabasha, Minn.) led Gustavus in scoring with 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting, including a 4 for 6 mark from three-point range. Gary Cooper (So., Detroit, Mich.) followed with 17 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Connor Gunderson led the way for the Oles with 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting. He also pulled down a team-high six rebounds.
The start to Saturday afternoon’s contest followed a similar script to Gustavus’s loss to St. Olaf earlier this season on Jan. 4th. After the two teams traded baskets through the first three possessions of the game that saw the Gusties out to a 4-2 lead, the Oles exploded to score 16 straight points to take an 18-4 lead, as they knocked down each of their first seven shots.
The two teams then traded runs back-and-forth through the rest of the half. First Gustavus countered with an 8-0 run to cut the lead to six points (18-12) before St. Olaf scored seven straight points to lead by 13 points (25-12) with 10:25 remaining in the half. The Gusties then answered with an 11-0 run to pull within two points (34-32) with 2:48 remaining in the opening frame. Finally, the Oles finished the half on a 7-2 run to take a 41-35 lead into the break.
St. Olaf shot a blistering 62.5 percent (15-24) in the first half compared to 55.6 percent (15-27) for Gustavus.
The two squads traded baskets once again to open the second half. Trailing by six points (45-39) with 17:46 left, the Gusties scored six straight points to tie the game (47-47) for the first time since the first minute of the game. Two possessions later, Chad Poppen (So., St. Peter, Minn.) nailed a three-pointer to give his team a one-point lead (50-49) with 11:35 to play.
The score hovered around one point for the next two minutes until the Oles scored six straight points to take a seven-point lead (61-54) with 8:09 remaining. Two minutes later, the Gusties cored six straight points of their own to cut the lead to one point (63-62) with 4:03 left.
From there, the two teams went back-and-forth for the next three minutes. Trailing by four points (73-69) with just 16 seconds left, Gary Cooper knocked down a clutch three-point basket to pull the Gusties within one (73-72).
After Connor Gunderson made a pair of free throws, the Gusties had one last opportunity to tie the game, but Poppen was forced into an off-balance three-point attempt that would not go down. Sterling Nielsen knocked down a pair of free throws to increase the lead to five points (77-72), which is where it would stay for the remainder of the afternoon.
For the game, Gustavus shot 57.7 percent (30-52) and 44.4 percent (8-18) from three-point range. St. Olaf connected on 52.8 percent (28-53) of its field goal attempts, including 43.8 percent (7-16) of its three-point tries.
Joining Dick and Cooper in double-figure scoring for the Gusties was Brian Jacobs (Jr., Lake Crystal, Minn.) with 12 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists.
Gunderson was followed by Sterling Nielsen and Justin Pahl with 16 and 12 points, respectively. Nielsen also dished out a game-high nine assists.
The Gusties will be back in action again on Monday when they take on Saint John’s University at Gus Young Court. That contest is set for a 7:30 p.m., opening tip.