St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus men’s basketball team opened up a 15-point lead (23-8) midway through the first half and would never look back in a 79-59 win over Saint Mary’s University on Saturday afternoon at Gus Young Court. The Gusties would lead by as many as 27 points (70-43) before settling for the 20-point win.
Cardinal Will Swiggum led all scorers in the game with 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting and also grabbed six rebounds. Gustavus had four players score in double-figures led by Sergio Najera (So., New Prague, Minn.) with a career-high 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting.
With this afternoon’s result, the Gusties improve to 16-8 overall and 13-6 in the MIAC, while the Cardinals drop to 3-20 overall and 2-16 in league play.
Gustavus wasted little time taking a lead that it would never give up. Just 11 seconds into the game, Brian Jacobs (Jr., Lake Crystal, Minn.) was fouled on a shot attempt and went to the free throw line. Jacobs sank both free throws, which were the first of six straight points to open the game for the Black and Gold. Jacobs later capped off the 6-0 run with a dunk a minute and a half later.
From there, the Gusties continued to extend their lead, building it to 15 points (23-8) with 10:58 remaining in the opening half. Gustavus would lead by as many as 16 points (35-19) in the opening half before heading into the break with a comfortable 14-point lead (39-25).
In the opening half, the Gustie men shot 54.8 percent (17-31) compared to 39.3 percent (11-28) for the Cardinals. Gustavus also assisted on 14 of its 17 made baskets.
After the two teams traded baskets over the first three minutes of the second half, Saint Mary’s was able to come back and cut the Gustavus lead to 12 points (45-33) with 15:29 remaining.
The Gusties responded with an 8-0 run that gave them a 20-point lead (53-33) and took the momentum back for the remainder of the game, as they would lead by 20 or more points for nearly all of the final 13 minutes of play. Gustavus would lead by as many as 27 points (70-43) before settling for the 20-point win.
For the game, Gustavus shot 55.4 percent (31-56) from the field, while holding Saint Mary’s to 39.6 percent (21-53). The Gusties assisted on 21 of 31 made field goals and outrebounded the Cardinals 37-26.
Gustavus was led in scoring by Najera’s 15 points. Gary Cooper (So., Detroit, Mich.) followed with 12 points on a perfect shooting night from both the floor (4-4) and the free throw line (4-4) off the bench. Brody Ziegler (So., Mankato, Minn.) and Peter Kruize (Fr., St. Peter, Minn.) each added 11 points. Ziegler also pulled down a team-high six rebounds, while Martin Feddersen (Jr., Winona, Minn.) and Chad Poppen (So., St. Peter, Minn.) each dished out four assists.
Will Swiggum’s 23 points and six rebounds led Saint Mary’s in the game. Evan Pederson was the only other Cardinal to score in double-figures with 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting. He also recorded a team-high three dimes.
Gustavus will be back in action next Wednesday, Feb. 19th when it hosts St. Thomas on Senior Night at Gus Young Court. That game will be the final regular season contest for the Gusties and is set to tip off at 7:30 p.m. Saint Mary’s will next travel to St. Paul to take on Hamline on Wednesday night.