The Gustavus men’s basketball team charged energrtically into the new year, starting off 2020 with a 5-2 record. Since then, the squad has lost five straight games to bring them to 8-14 overall and 8-9 in the MIAC conference.
February has not been kind to the Gusties, as a tough stretch of their schedule, a close loss, and a roster plagued by injury and sickness have eroded the team’s positive momentum.
“The main contributor to our five-game skid has been the overall health of our players, which is unfortunate as this has been a pivotal point in our season,” said Senior Captain Leif Engen.
On Feb. 1, Gustavus hosted St. Thomas in what could be the last time the Gusties face off against the Tommies on the basketball court.
The contest was a lopsided affair from the tip, as Gustavus looked sluggish and St. Thomas jumped out to an early 16-2 lead.
The Tommies led 53-21 at halftime and ended up breaking triple digits, with a final score of 106-67. St. Thomas played an excellent game, shooting 57% from the floor while making 17 three pointers, while turning the ball over just four times. The Tommies currently sit in second place in the MIAC and are ranked fourth nationally.
Junior Kaleb Feahn showed his explosive offensive potential, providing a bright spot in an otherwise brutal game for the Gusties. He finished with a game-high 25 points on 8-of-9 shooting, and went 4-of-4 from deep. Juniors Logan Rezac and Pete Lundquist added 9 points and 8 points, respectively.
On Feb. 5, Gustavus travelled to Northfield to take on the Carleton Knights. It was a hard-fought game, as both teams traded buckets and withstood runs throughout.
Gustavus led 36-33 at halftime, but the Knights caught fire for the first four minutes of the second half and went on a 13-2 run to give them a 46-38 lead with 16 minutes left. Gustavus settled in and played a solid six minutes of basketball, regaining the lead 52-51 with 10:36 remaining.
With under a minute to play, Carleton clung to a 70-66 lead when Pete Lundquist sank a short jumper to pull the Gusties within two points.
Carleton missed several free-throws down the stretch, and the Gusties gained possession with 11 seconds left, still down by two. Kaleb Feahn broke down his defender and penetrated the lane, getting a foul call with three seconds on the clock. He missed the first and made the second, and Carleton was able to wind down the clock for a narrow 70-69 victory.
Scoring was evenly spread for the Gusties, as Sophomore Nolan Malo was the leading scorer with 16 points, Feahn finished with 15 and Lundquist had 14 to go along with seven rebounds.
Two days later the Gusties once again returned to Northfield for a match up with St. Olaf. The Oles jumped out to an early 10-3, forcing a Gustie timeout, and maintained a seven to 15 point lead throughout the first half. They took a 37-28 lead into the locker room.
The second half continued in the same vein until the Gusties had a spurt midway through the period. A pair of three pointers by Rezac and Feahn and a jumper from Marten Morem brought the score to 54-49. The Gusties didn’t have enough in the tank to complete the comeback, as St. Olaf went on a 12-1 run to create separation and secure the victory.
Rezac led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4 for 6 from behind the arc, and chipped in six rebounds and four assists. Jake Guse, Morem, and Peter Lundquist all had 10 points.
“The St. Olaf game had playoff implications, but the result was not to our liking. We didn’t play to the standards of Gustavus basketball and the final score was a reflection of our actions throughout the game. With that being said, we are focused on our last three games of the regular season and playing Gustie basketball,” Engen said.
The Gusties currently sit at sixth place in the MIAC, which would make them eligible for the postseason conference tournament if they finish strong. Their last three opponents are Bethel, this coming Saturday at home, Saint Mary’s, also at home, and Augsburg. Wins in two of these games would put the team in a good spot to propel the squad into the tournament.