After the seventh week of conference play, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference playoff race is wide open. While league leading St. Thomas and second place Gustavus are near-locks to make the six team playoff field, seven teams are in the thick of the battle for the remaining four spots. Saint Mary’s remained in the playoff chase as they beat Gustavus for the first time since 1993.
SAINT MARY’S 78, GUSTAVUS 75</strong>
The Cardinals drained eight free throws in the final 80 seconds to knock off the Gusties in Winona. The win snapped a 17-year, 33-game losing streak to Gustavus. The Cardinals last defeated GAC on February 13, 1993.
Saint Mary’s recipe for success was a combination of hot shooting (58.7%), good ball control (10 turnovers), clutch free throw shooting and a career-best game from Michael Burfeind. Will Wright, who tallied 18 points with four assists, led the balanced attack. Burfeind posted a personal high of 17 points off the bench. Lukas Holland finished with 12 points and four assists while Chris Palmer ended the night with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Pat Freeman added 11 points and four boards.
The Cards shot 65.4% from the floor in the first half, and “cooled off” to 54.3% in the second. They connected on five of seven from behind the arc in the opening stanza and rippled the net on 12 of 16 second half free throws.
Gustavus kept pace, shooting 65.2% from the field in the first half and 57.1% for the night. They dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Cards 31-18, but committed 16 turnovers. A 23-10 differential in fouls was the key, as the Gusties only attempted 10 free throws on the night.
Ryan McPartland led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds before fouling out. Phil Wirtjes and Sam Paulson each chipped in 14 points, with Wirtjes adding three assists. Dan Schmidtknecht posted 10 points, to go with three steals and a pair of assists. Paul Blacklock chipped in eight points and five rebounds off the bench.
SMU drew first blood on a trey by Wright and established an early 13-6 lead. Gustavus countered with an 11-3 run to take the lead midway through the first half. The Cards closed the half with a 10-6 spurt to take a 39-35 lead into the break. Wright was particularly hot in the opening period, scoring 14 first-half points. Freeman and Burfeind each tallied eight in the half.
The Cards pushed the lead to seven on a three by Freeman early in the second half. Gustavus countered with a 15-2 run, using its balance offense to fuel the ally. That outburst gave the Gusties a 52-46 lead and left them poised to extend their winning ways over SMU.
However, SMU refused to fold and chipped away until they regained the lead on a jumper by Burfeind with 4:26 left in the game. The teams battled back and forth and GAC tied the game 70-70 with 1:27 to play on a Paulson lay-up. Holland lifted SMU into the lead for good with a pair of free throws and the Card added six more charity tosses over the final minute to push their lead to 78-72. Jesse Van Sickle drained a three with 0:02 showing on the clock, by that was not enough for Gustavus.
“It was a total team effort,” said SMU coach Todd Landrum. “Most of all, I am happy for the players and the assistant coaches. We played a great game all the way around and I’m happy, because the kids are happy — that’s my satisfaction in a game like this.”
For SMU, it was the first of three games in which they look to snap long losing skids. Next up is a trip to Saint John’s, where they last won in 1968. Then it is home on Monday to tackle St. Thomas, who has won 44 in a row over SMU.
Gustavus returns to action on Monday, hosting Augsburg. Macalester visits Gustavus on Wednesday and the Gusties head to Hamline on Saturday. Gustavus is in second place with a 10-3 MIAC record and is 12-6 overall.
<strong>AROUND THE MIAC
BETHEL 80, MACALESTER 62</strong>
The Royals dominated play from start to finish, romping to an 80-62 win over the Scots. Chris Vavra a season-high 26 points, including 17 in the first half, to lead Bethel
Bethel sizzled the net, hitting 50% for the night and 53% in the first half. They connected on 20 of 29 free throws and drained six of 13 threes. Vavra accounted for three of the triples. BU committed only 10 turnovers and posted 13 steals. In addition to Vavra’s hot hand, the Royals got 16 points from Greg Meyer. Nate Robertson posted a double-double, scoring 13 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Daniel Baah tallied eight points while doling out five assists. Zach Hurd had four assists and four steals off the bench.
The Scots held a 39-28 edge off the glass, but were hurt by 24 turnovers. They shot 42.6% from the field for the night, but were only 23.5% (4 of 17) from behind the arc. Kyle Hamblett scored 14 points to lead the offense. He also had three assists. Holden Bigler-Johnson added 12 points and Colin Keeley posted a double-double, scoring 10 points with 13 rebounds. Jerry Kraus added seven boards, six points and four assists.
Bethel opened the game with a 19-5 run, behind eight points from Vavra. The lead grew to as many as 21 in the opening half before BU took a 40-24 lead into the intermission. Mac trimmed the gap to 14 in the opening moments of the second half but the Royals quickly extended the margin past 20 and coasted the rest of the way.
<strong>CARLETON 65, CONCORDIA 42
The Knights used a stifling defense to shut down the Cobbers’ offense as they led from wire to wire en route to a 65-42 win.
Carleton converted 15 Concordia turnovers into 22 points and won the battle in the pain, 30-14. The Knights limited the Cobbers to 16.0% shooting in the first half and 26.0% for the night. They shot 47.1% from the field, including 59.1% in the second half.
Seth Jonker led the Knights, scoring 15 points. He added four rebounds, two assists, a pair of steals and a blocked shot. Jeremy Sutherland tallied 13 points, with four boards, two steals, a pair of assists and a block. Bryan Rosett chipped in seven points and a team-best seven rebounds.
Concordia, which missed its first nine shots of the game, did not have a player with more than two field goals. No Cobber reached double figures. Their shooting woes extended to three-point range, where they were just three-for-15 (20.0%). John Fraase was high man with eight points and eight rebounds
Carleton raced to a quick 11-0 lead behind threes by Carter Biewen and Blaise Davis. They extended their lead to 14 by the midpoint of the first half and took a 29-13 lead into the locker room. A three by Rosett pushed the lead past 20 midway through the final stanza, and Concordia was unable to draw closer the rest of the way.
<strong>HAMLINE 68, ST. OLAF 65
Ray Brown drained a buzzer-beating three-pointer to life the Pipers to a 68-65 win over the Oles in a barnburner at Hamline. It was one of five triples for Brown on the night.
The game was tied nine times and featured eight lead changes. Neither team was able to claim a lead of more than seven points as the game seesawed back and forth.
The Oles, who unleashed 70 shots on the night, used a 12-3 run in the first half to pull out to an 18-11 lead. Later in the half, Hamline went on a 12-0 run, behind a pair of all-net threes by Dan Andersen to swing the pendulum their way and take a 35-30 lead into the locker room.
Hamline extended its lead to seven early in the second half but the Oles erupted for a 10-0 outburst to retake the lead. Baskets by Tucker Sheley bookended a three-point play by Stu Neville to highlight the run. Hamline countered with a 9-0 run, but St. Olaf retaliated with a 9-0 of its own, leaving the Oles with a two-point lead with 8:13 to play.
Brown dropped in eight points during a Piper rally that put HU in the lead 64-57. St. Olaf chipped away at the lead and tied the game on a three-pointer by Neville with 0:16 showing on the clock. That set the stage for Brown’s game-winning theatrics.
Hamline shot 51.1% from the floor and held a 42-31 edge off the glass. However, 21 turnovers nearly cost the Pipers the game. Brown and Carl Hipp each posted a double-double to lead Hamline. Brown scored 24 points, with 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. Hipp added 20 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks, and a steal.
The rapid-fire Oles connected on just 37.1% of their 70 shots, and were only four-for-22 from three-point range. They did an excellent job handling the ball with only seven turnovers. They posted 15 steals. Bobby Fong, who tallied 17 points in the first half, finished the game with 22; he also had three steals. Neville added 13 points and six rebounds, while Alfred Jaryan chipped in six points, five steals and five boards.
<strong>ST. THOMAS 77, AUGSBURG 66
The Tommies, behind solid performances from Joe Scott and Alex Healy, ran their home winning streak to 53 with a 77-66 decision over the Auggies. UST led from start to finish.
Scott finished the night with 21 points, leading all scorers. Healy ended the game with 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Peter Leslie came off the bench to tally 10 points, including a trio of three-pointers. Sam Eicher and Brady Ervin each chipped in eight points. UST committed just nine turnovers and shot 54.0% from the floor; they were 47.4% from behind the rainbow.
The Tommie defense limited Augsburg’s trio of three-point gunners (Jon Cassens, Ben Flavin and David Olson) to just one trey, which came with five minutes to play.
Augsburg out-rebounded UST 28-22. They connected on 54.5% of their shots. Andy Grzesiak-Grimm posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He had a pair of dunks on alley-oops. Matthew Quammen came off the bench to drain three triples as part of a 13 point effort. Cassens chipped in 11 points and four assists.
The Tommies jumped out to a 13-4 lead behind threes from Scott and Healy. Augsburg rallied late in the first half to pull within a bucket but UST closed the half with an 11-5 run to take a 34-26 lead into the intermission. Augsburg was unable to draw closer than seven the rest of the way.
AUGSBURG 72, ST. OLAF 65</strong>
A 13-0 run midway through the second half propelled the Auggies to a 72-65 win over the Oles. Ben Flavin led the Augsburg attack with a season-high 189 points and a career-best seven assists.
Matthew Quammen hit back to back three-pointers to ignite the game-changing outburst for the Auggies. Anthony Humphrey added a pair of buckets to punctuate the run.
After a tightly contested opening 16 minutes, St. Olaf closed the first half with an 8-2 run to take a 37-32 lead into the break. The Auggies knotted the game early in the second half on a trey by Jon Cassens but the Oles regained the lead and led 53-49 with 10:03 to go after a three-pointer by Alfred Jaryan. Following that bucket, Quammen kicked off Augsburg’s game-altering run.
In addition to Flavin’s hot hand, the Auggies received 12 points and three assists from Cassens as well as 10 points from David Olson. Cory Polta pulled down six rebounds, leading Augsburg to a 35-25 edge off the glass. Augsburg shot a blistering 63.6% from the floor in the second half.
With the win, Augsburg improves to 8-5 in MIAC play and a tie for third place. Overall, the Auggies are 13-5. In the coming week, they play at Gustavus and Concordia before returning home to tangle with Macalester.
Stu Neville led the Oles with a game-best 20 points. He added seven assists and eight rebounds. Jaryan finished with 15 points and five assists, while Mark Torell posted 10 points, two assists and two steals. The Oles committed only eight turnovers but shot 42.6% from the field.
St. Olaf is now 6-7 in MIAC play and in the thick of contention for the final playoff spots. Overall, they are 8-10. The Oles host cross-town rival Carleton on Monday, and close out the week with games at Saint John’s and Bethel.
<strong>BETHEL 70, CONCORDIA 53
The Royals defense clamped down in the second half, limiting the Cobbers to 20 points, as Bethel secured a 70-53 win in Moorhead. The win was BU’s fifth in their last six outings, a run that has moved them back into the playoff chase.
Bethel led much of the first half but Concordia took the lead briefly late in the half. A layup by Greg Meyer tied the game and Rob Lang followed with a pair of free throws to give Bethel a 35-33 lead at the half.
The second half was all Bethel. The Royals scored the first five points of the half as part of a 17-4 run that broke the game open. They pushed the lead to as many as 17 and never let Concordia within 11 over the final 14 minutes.
Bethel shot 45.5% in the second half, part of a 40.7% shooting effort. They were 22-for-27 (81.5%) from the charity stripe and committed only nine turnovers while forcing 20 Concordia miscues. Chris Vavra dropped in a game-high 17 points to lead the way. He connected on eight of nine from the free throw line. Nate Robertson posted another double-double, scoring 16 and grabbing 13 rebounds. Lang and Meyer each chipped in 10 points.
With the win, the Royals improve to 6-8 in MIAC play and are one game out of sixth place. Overall, they stand 10-9. After a bye on Monday, Bethel plays at Hamline and then returns home to take on St. Olaf.
The Cobbers’ shooting woes continued as they shot an icy 23.5% in the second half and 31.8% for the day. They were just two-for-17 (11.8%) from behind the arc. Concordia held a 39-34 edge off the glass, but was hurt by 20 turnovers. John Fraase led the way with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Darrin Olmscheid added 10 points and six boards, while Aaron Lindahl chipped in 10 points off the bench.
Concordia has lost seven consecutive MIAC games and falls to 4-10 in league play and 8-11 overall. The Cobbers play at Hamline on Monday and return home to tackle Augsburg and Saint John’s.
<strong>CARLETON 66, HAMLINE 63
The Knights, behind a solid performance by Jeremy Sutherland closed the game with a 14-4 to wrap up a 66-63 win over the Pipers. The win was Carleton’s fourth in a row, a streak that has lifted them into the thick of the playoff chase. They now hold sole possession of sixth place and the final slot in the MIAC Playoffs.
Sutherland’s play was superb. He tallied a game-high 20 points, with four steals, two blocks and a pair of assists. Defensively, he limited Ray Brown, the MIAC”s leading scorer, to just 11 points. Bryan Rosett posted 16 points and seven rebounds, while Seth Jonker had 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
The Knights forced 17 turnovers to overcome a 36-24 deficit off the glass. Carleton shot 44.9% from the field to Hamline’s 43.9%.
Carl Hipp led the Pipers with 13 points. He had four blocks, three assists and four rebounds. Brown finished the day with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Noah Aguirre added 11 points and Christian Taber pumped in 12.
The game had a playoff-like atmosphere and intensity, befitting a meeting of two potential playoff teams. Over the first 20 minutes of play, there were seven ties and seven more lead changes with Carleton holding a slim 33-30 lead at the half.
That margin held up over the first five minutes of the second half. The Pipers erupted for a 9-0 run, fueled by five points from Brown. That put HU in front 47-41. The Hamline lead grew as large as seven points on four occasions, the last coming at 59-52 with six minutes still to play. The Carleton defense took over as the Knights limited Hamline to two-of- nine shooting down the stretch. A jumper by Hipp tied the game 63-63 with 2:48, but Hamline went scoreless the rest of the way. Carleton hit three free throws over the final two minutes to seal the win.
The Knights are now 7-7 in league play and 11-8 on the season. Carleton travels to St. Olaf Monday for a game with playoff implications as well as for control of the fabled Goat Trophy (because St. Olaf won the first meeting this season, an Ole win would give them possession of the Goat). After that, the Knights host Saint Mary’s before heading to St. Paul to battle league-leading St. Thomas.
Hamline falls to 8-6 and fifth place in the MIAC; they are 12-7 for the year. The Pipers have three home games in the week ahead, hosting Concordia, Bethel and Gustavus.
<strong>SAINT JOHN’S 66, SANT MARY’S 55
The Johnnies used a 9-0 run midway through the second half to pull away from the Cardinals and seal a 66-55 win. It marked the 40th consecutive home win for SJU in the series.
SJU played a strong second half, shooting 63.6% from the floor and forced 11 second half turnovers by SMU. The Johnnies converted those turnovers into 14 points, part of a 24-10 points-off-turnovers edge for SJU Saint John’s dominated play in the paint, outscoring Saint Mary’s 30-18.
Three Johnnies reached double figures, led by Andrew Latzke with 17. Aaron Burtzel added 12 points and seven rebounds while Todd Herman chipped in 12 points off the bench.
For SMU, Chris Palmer scored 18 points with nine rebounds to lead the way. Will Wright added 11 points and five rebounds. Lukas Holland posted nine points, giving him 999 points for his career,
The Cardinals shot 50% in the first half as they led much of the stanza, taking a 31-30 lead into the break. The game was close over the next eight minutes and was knotted at 45-45 before SJU’s game-changing run.
With the win, SJU improves to 8-5 and moves into a tie for third place in the MIAC. The Johnnies are 11-7 on the year. Saint John’s plays at Macalester on Monday, hosts St. Olaf on Wednesday and closes the week at Concordia.
Saint Mary’s is now 5-9 in conference play and 7-12 overall. The Cards host St. Thomas on Monday and travel to Carleton on Wednesday before enjoying a bye over the weekend.
<strong>ST. THOMAS 86, MACALESTER 51
The Tommies used a torrid first half to run away from the Scots, cruising to an 86-51 win at Macalester. It was Mac’s 43rd consecutive loss in MIAC play.
UST connected on its first 12 shots and 15 of its first 16 to race to a 39-13 lead midway through the first half. In the opening stanza, the Tommies shot a scorching 77.8% from the field and were eight-of-nine (88.9%) from three-point range. They held a 53-25 lead at the break and substituted freely and frequently in the second half. The Tommies committed only 10 turnovers, while doling out 26 assists. Their pressure defense accounted for 14 steals as they forced 24 Mac miscues.
Of the 15 players to enter the game for St. Thomas 14 scored. Alex Healy, who tallied 21 points in 18 minutes, led the attack. Healy was four-of-five from three-point range and eight-of-nine on the day. He also dished out three assists. Joe Scott posted 12 points and three assists. Anders Halverson and Tommy Hannon each tallied seven points, while Peter Leslie added five points and five assists.
For the Scots, Paul Pierce led the offense with 14 points, including six-of-seven from the charity stripe. Kyle Hamblett finished with 12 points and Colin Keeley chipped in 11 points and four rebounds.
St. Thomas stands atop the MIAC standings with a 13-1 record. Overall, they are 17-2 and ranked sixth in the nation. UST plays at Saint Mary’s on Monday and hosts Carleton on Saturday.
Macalester is 0-14 in conference action and 2-17 on the year. They host Saint John’s before finishing the week with games at Gustavus and Augsburg.