NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- Tom Sawatzke (Jr./Monticello, Minn./Monticello) hit a three-pointer as time expired to put the Carleton College men’s basketball teams’ recent struggles to rest and lift the Knights to a 54-52 triumph over Bethel University. Sawatzke matched his career high with five three-pointers on his way to a game-best 17 points.
Scott Theisen (Jr./Champlin, Minn./Champlin Park) put up 16 points and eight rebounds, and Caleb Rosenow (Sr./Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) tallied 10 points and five boards as the Knights notched their first win since Dec. 8.
Eerily reminiscent to the Knights’ loss on Saturday at Saint John’s, Carleton found itself down by one with only seconds remaining. This time, however, the Knights point guard drained the game’s final shot. “Eventually, one of them is going to drop in the end,” said Sawatzke. “You just have to trust that if you keep working hard, good things will come.”
In addition to strong play from the Knights’ starters, the bench stepped up for Carleton (7-12, 4-10 MIAC). Jonah Herscu (So./Amherst, Mass./Amherst Regional) played a season-high 19 minutes, and contributed to the defensive effort that limited Bethel (10-8, 6-7 MIAC) to only 38 percent shooting over the course of the game. “He has consistency the likes of which you don’t see at this level...he flat out understands the game,” said Carleton head coach Guy Kalland.
In adddition to Herscu, Michael Grinnell (Sr./Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview), Paxton Harvieux (Fy./Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater), and Kyle Mileusnic (Fy./Long Lake, Minn./Orono) contributed key minutes for Carleton. “They brought a lot to the table tonight from an energy standpoint,” said Kalland. And that energy came up big for the Knights, who needed every contribution to pull out the victory.
The Knights started slowly on offense and trailed 19-11 with eight minutes remaining in the first half. Carleton closed the period on a 14-4 spurt, featuring Theisen and Sawatzke. The duo hit three triples over that stretch, which sent the Knights into the locker room with some much needed momentum and a 25-23 advantage. Sawatzke, in a bit of foreshadowing, drained a three-ball just before the halftime buzzer. That shot gave the Knights their first lead of the game.
Coming out of the locker room, the Knights opened the second half with 7-2 burst, to build a 32-25 lead with 16:26 to play. Nearly seven minutes later, a deep Sawatzke three-ball gave the Knights a 10-point lead. Things were looking good for Carleton at the 5:42 mark as it held a seemingly comfortable 49-40 advantage, but Bethel was not going home without a fight. Over the next four-plus minutes, the Royals went on a 12-2 run. This comeback gave Bethel its first lead of the second-half, 52-51, on a baseline jumper by Greg Meyer with only 1:21 left on the clock.
The Knights came up empty on their ensuing possession, giving Bethel the ball back with a one-point lead and only 56 ticks remaining. Carleton desperately needed a stop, and the defense delivered. With Grinnell playing tough defense, Taylor Hall, the Royals’ leading scorer, missed a pull-up jumper. Sawatzke corralled the rebound for Carleton and with 17 seconds remaining, the Knights set up their chance at victory.
After moving the ball around the perimeter, Sawatzke managed to sneak a pass into Rosenow on the left block with six seconds to go. Rosenow looked for a shot, but was smothered by the Bethel defense. With only a couple ticks left on the clock, he flipped the ball back out to Sawatzke, who worked himself open with the clock winding down.
The pressure did not faze Sawatzke, who released his shot right before the horn sounded, and his swish brought the West Gym crowd to its feet as the scoreboard read 54-52 in Carleton’s favor.
The Knights will look to keep their winning ways going on Wednesday, Feb. 1 when Carleton hosts Macalester College for a 7:30 p.m. contest. Live video of that game will be available on Knights Online.