Autumn Zierman – Staff Writer
The Gustavus men’s basketball team traveled to Mankato on Monday night for a non-conference game against the Bethany Lutheran Vikings and took a 66-62 win. With the victory, the Gusties move to 3-3 overall and remain 1-1 in the MIAC. This victory comes after a very close loss to the St. Olaf team on Tuesday the 23.
“It was a great feeling to pull off the win. Our first 7 games are on the road and no matter the team it is always tough to find a win on the road. Also, it was a great bounce back after a close loss and got us back on track going back into conference play,” junior Jake Guse said.
The Vikings got out to an early 12-5 lead, before the Gusties responded with a 15-9 run and took their first lead with ten minutes left. The score evened at 28-28 and the Vikings held a one-point lead at the 31-30 halftime. Gustavus had an advantage over Bethany close to the basket with a 26-21 edge in rebounds and outscored the Vikings in the paint 24-18, Senior Kaleb Feahn led with eight points and First-year Spencer Swanson recorded seven rebounds.
“I felt very confident going into the game. We didn’t execute as we would have hoped in some areas, but we played extremely hard and resulted in a win. The expectations for the year and season are high for us, because we believe we are near the top of the MIAC and have a great chance to win the conference,” senior Benji Lundberg said.
“I hope we can grind because that’s what our schedule is. It’s early, and I still think we’re finding ourselves a little bit, but it would be nice if we can grind,” head coach Mark Hanson said.
Right into the second half the Gusties reestablished a 33-31 Gustie advantage. The Vikings tied it at 37 and went on a 10-6 run before senior Nolan Malo made three jump shots for a 49-47 Gustavus lead. The back and forth continued, each team following up the others small victories, but ultimately Gustavus pulled out the win. The Vikings did not go down easily as they ran up a final 8-1 run with eight seconds remaining, senior Pete Lundquist and senior Jordan Schommer closed the door going for a perfect 4-4 from the line to seal the Gustie victory.
“We all felt pretty confident going into the game, knowing our abilities and talents gives us a lot of confidence in what we can do as a team. Our expectations this year are to be one of the top teams in the MIAC,” Schommer said.
Long days full of practice are sharpening the team’s skill as the semester continues.
“We could have closed it out stronger if we had made a couple more free throws and not turned the ball over. Some of the more high pressure, intense situations are hard to simulate in practice so these in-game lessons are valuable,” coach Hanson said.
Like most other competitive sports, however, the GAC men’s basketball team was happy to be back on the court after last year’s inconsistent schedule, full of cancellations and empty stands.
“The highlight for us this season is just being able to be with all the guys and having fun out on the court, also being able to have a normal season compared to last year is a great thing as well,” Schommer said.
Also pushing the guys through this season is the close community that accompanies training and competing together.
“Family. We try to stick to this because the closer you are and know more about each other it makes for better communication when out on the floor. Also, trying to stick as one helps when things are not going our way and we don’t have just a couple people trying to do it all. We all try to fight as one to make the best team we can,” Guse said.
Competitiveness and camaraderie are the foundation of the team and with Gustavus cheering their victory, the men’s basketball team have their eyes on the prize.
“Playing ‘above the rim” — meaning keeping a level head and not letting negative emotions dictate what we do or how we react to situations. Team aspirations for the season are to win a conference championship!” Lundberg said.
The Gusties return to conference competition Wednesday, December 1 traveling to Carlton.