St. Peter, Minn. – For the second time in the past three games, the Gustavus men's basketball team dropped a heartbreaker in conference play. The Gusties fell to Bethel 60-59 on Wednesday night at Gus Young Court after holding a 37-31 advantage at halftime. With the loss, the Gusties fall to 2-4 overall and 1-3 in the MIAC. Meanwhile, the Royals improve to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the MIAC.
After a total of nine lead changes and eight ties, the Gusties were able to pull away with a small lead in the closing minutes of the first half. They finished the first 20 minutes with a 9-3 run over the final 5:07 to grab a six-point lead with the score 37-31. Gustavus shot 52-percent (13-25) in the opening half, while holding Bethel to 38.7-percent (12-31) shooting.
A 16-4 run to begin the second half enabled the Royals to open up their largest lead of the game at six with the score 47-41 with 13:14 to play. Back-to-back three-pointers by Jim Hill (Sr., Edina, Minn.) on the next two possessions tied the game at 47-47 with 12:02 to go.
Gustavus would go on to take the lead at the 5:35 mark. A beautiful high-low feed from Reed Sallstrom (Sr., Winthrop, Minn.) led to a Blake Shay (Sr., Lakeville, Minn.) lay-in, and the Gusties led 51-50. On the ensuing possession, however, Taylor Hall put the Royals back on top with a jumper that sparked a 7-0 run for Bethel.
The Gusties countered with an 8-3 run of their own, capped by a Jim Hill three-pointer from the right wing that cut the Bethel lead to one with :48 seconds remaining. After a Taylor Hall lane violation on a free throw, Gustavus got the ball back with a chance to win. With :04 seconds on the clock, Hill drove down the right side of the lane and was forced to take an off-balance shot that would not fall, as the Royals walked away with the one-point victory.
"In a one-point game there are any number of plays here or there that if you make them better, the game might go the other way," mentioned head coach Mark Hanson.
The Gusties were led by Jim Hill with 13 points, including three second-half three-pointers. Hill also added five rebounds on the night. Blake Shay came next with 12 points and three rebounds, while Ben Biewen (Sr., Edina, Minn.) chipped in 11 points. Jordan Dick (Jr., Wabasha, Minn.) found double-figures for the third consecutive night with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the field and 2-for-4 from behind the three-point line. Isaac Tapp (So., Stewartville, Minn.) added nine points and five rebounds, while Brian Jacobs came off the bench to record a career-high six rebounds.
"Defensively, I thought there were times that we did some things pretty well," continued Hanson. "Yet there were other times that we lost physical battles, and they had two players that seemingly ate us up. We have to find ways to get better at some of those things."
The Gusties will be back in action again this Saturday for their final game before the Christmas break when Buena Vista University comes to town. Tip off is set for 3:00 p.m. at Gus Young Court.