Northfield, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus men’s basketball team concluded its season with a 66-53 loss to St. Olaf in the semifinals of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Playoffs on Friday night at Skoglund Center.
After trailing by four points (24-20) at halftime, the Gusties came back to take a two-point lead (38-36) midway through the second half, but could not hang on as the Oles countered with a 12-0 run to take a 10-point lead (48-38) with 9:46 remaining. The run proved to be too much for Gustavus to overcome in the 13-point loss.
With tonight’s result, the Gusties finish the season 17-10 overall, while St. Olaf improves to 21-5 and advances to the MIAC Championship game, which will take place on Sunday afternoon at St. Thomas.
In a low-scoring first half, the Oles grabbed a 14-6 lead when Josh Pratt made a layup with 8:57 remaining until halftime. St. Olaf would extend its lead to as many as 12 points (24-12) in the opening 20 minutes. The lead came with 4:13 left on a Sterling Nielsen driving layup. However, the Gusties held the Oles scoreless for the remaining four minutes and change, as they cut the lead to four points (24-20) with an 8-0 run to end the half.
Peter Kruize (Fr., St. Peter, Minn.) kicked off the run with a pair of free throws, and would go on to score six of the eight points in the stretch. It was Kruize who capped off the run with a deep two-point basket from the top of the key as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Both defenses were on display in the first 20 minutes, as neither team shot better than 40 percent from the field. St. Olaf shot 39.3 percent (11-28) compared to just 27.6 percent (8-29) for Gustavus in the half.
After Connor Gunderson made a layup just over three minutes into the second half to extend the St. Olaf lead to nine points (34-25), the Gusties took off on a 13-2 run over the next three minutes to take a two-point lead (38-36) with 12:42 left in the game.
The run began when Sergio Najera (So., New Prague, Minn.) knocked down a jumper with 16:28 remaining. Martin Feddersen (Jr., Winona, Minn.) converted a layup off an assist from Gary Cooper (So., Detroit, Mich.) on the ensuing trip down the floor. Najera and Jordan Dick (Sr., Wabasha, Minn.) followed with back-to-back jumpers on the next two possessions, cutting the lead to one point (34-33) with 14:18 to go.
Following a pair of free throws by Sam Daly that pushed the St. Olaf lead back to three points (36-33), Najera made good on a layup to pull the Gusties back within one.
A minute later, Gary Cooper knocked down a three in transition from the left wing and the Gusties had their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
Trailing 38-36, the Oles responded with a 12-0 run of their own. Sterling Nielsen ignited the run with four straight points. Nathan Kuck and Justin Pahl added back-to-back three-pointers on the next two possessions before Connor Gunderson made a layup a minute later. The layup gave St. Olaf a ten-point lead (48-38) with 9:46 to go.
Gustavus would cut the lead back to eight points (48-40) on the next trip down the floor, but it was as close as the Gusties would come the rest of the way. The Ole run proved to be too much for the Gustie men to overcome in the 13-point loss.
For the game, Gustavus shot 41.1 percent (23-56) from the field, while St. Olaf shot just 39 percent (23-59). However, the Oles made 5 of 11 three-point field goals (45.5%) compared to just 1 of 6 (16.7%) for the Gusties, who also held a 37-35 rebounding advantage. Gustavus also committed 15 turnovers, while St. Olaf gave the ball away just eight times.
Senior Jordan Dick led the Gusties in scoring in his final game wearing the Black and Gold with 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting. He also pulled down four rebounds. Peter Kruize was the only other Gustavus player to finish in double-figures with 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting to go along with five rebounds off the bench. Martin Feddersen added eight points, five assists, and a game-high 12 rebounds.
St. Olaf landed three players in double-figure scoring, led by Justin Pahl and Sterling Nielsen with 15 points each. Pahl made 5 of 7 field goals, including a 3 of 4 mark from three-point range, while Nielsen also dished out five assists and grabbed four rebounds. Connor Gunderson was the final Ole in double-figures with 12 points to go along with eight boards.