Parker Burman – Staff Writer
Both the Gustavus men’s and women’s basketball teams opened up their seasons this past week. The men hosted UW-River Falls, while the women went on the road to start the year against UW-Stout. At home the men fought a back and forth battle, which ended in a 62-58 defeat to start the year, while the women started off strong with a 72-53 victory.
“It feels great! There is a lot of excitement expressed in our program not only by the coaches but by the players as well. Every basketball player knows that there is no feeling that can match an opening night,” Sophomore Spencer Swanson said.
In the men’s game it was a struggle for both sides to find offensive traction as it took over two minutes for the first points to be scored in the game. Swanson put the Gusties on his back as he single-handedly scored Gustavus’ first eight points. Gustavus built up a 15-7 lead at the 12:22 mark, but this lead evaporated quickly after as River Falls went on a 10 point unanswered scoring streak.
“We were honestly just really excited to just be back playing in front of our friends and family. Obviously the goal was to win but also just to show ourselves that we are capable of competing against a really good team,” Senior Jordan Schommer said.
Gustavus was outscored 28-8 in the last 12 minutes of the half, leading to a 35-23 halftime deficit. This River Falls lead only grew in the second half as they led by 16 points with a score of 47-31 with 12:19 left in the game. This lead would be insurmountable for the Gustavus offense- though they only fell by four points.
“We came up a bit short but it was still a great opportunity for us to learn and grow. [I’m] proud of how we came out in the second half and did not back down and continued to fight till the end. It really showed the grit and fight this team has,” Schommer said.
The Gustavus women fared better than the men as they were able to show off their dominance in their 72-53 victory. Their win started early, as the Gustie offense put up 20 points in the first quarter while the defense allowed Stout just four points.
“Defensively we came out strong. Only allowing 4 points in the first quarter set the tone right away. Defense is something we really focus on and take pride in as a team, so we look to hold a team to a minimum of points and build off of that. Also, we shot the ball super well which is always a plus. If you lockdown on defense and shoot well, it’s amazing what a team can do,” Junior Izzy Quick said.
Going into halftime, the Gusties almost matched their first half offensive production, putting up an additional 19 points. The defense was not able to match their high level of dominance in the second quarter but still only allowed 16 points to lead 39-20.
The second half was much of the same, though Stout was able to cut the Gustie lead down to 18 points. However, this was as small as the deficit would get. Gustavus closed out quarter three with a 26 point lead. All of this led the Gusties to their 72-53 victory to open the year.
Senior Anna Sanders led the team in scoring with 16 points while teammate Sophomore Kylie Baranick was hot on her tail with 15 of her own. Quick finished third in points on the team with 10, dealing out an assist and picking up three rebounds.
“Starting the season off with a win was super encouraging for us, but also a good learning opportunity. We got to see how much we have improved since our first season playing together, and since our team is almost the same as last year, it’s super exciting to see how we can use this as a starting point and continue to build off of it,” Quick said.
WIth a full season ahead of them, both the Gustavus men and women will be looking to make deep runs in the MIAC and hopefully into the NCAA Tournament.
“I think everyone’s main goal for their sports season is to bring a MIAC Championship to Gustavus and as much as that is in our vision, we have plenty of other goals for the year. As a team, we want to show lots of progress on and off the court. I think we separate from a lot of other schools because we focus on development as athletes and humans. Regardless of what our record says, our goal is to always be a family of Gusties,” Swanson said.
“The main goals for this season is to go back to the tournament, but also to win the conference. Last year we won the playoffs, which was great, but we didn’t win the conference. Also, if fortunate enough to make it back to the tournament, we want to make it past the first round. The road to Dallas is something we always talk about, and I think this team is very special and has the talent, chemistry, and trust in one another to do so,” Quick said.