Arden Hills, Minn. – Zach Johnson (Fy./Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview) tallied a career-high 36 points and added seven rebounds and five assists, Jake Phillips (Jr./Brainerd, Minn.) added 20 points and Dan Forkrud (Sr./Rosemount, Minn.) tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Carleton College men's baketball team defeated Bethel Univesity, 90-70, grabbing a share of the MIAC regular-season title.
It marks the Knights first title since 1964-65, when Carleton won the Midwest Conference title. The win was Carleton's 16th straight, setting a new school record for most consecutive wins in a season, breaking the previous mark of 15 by the 1915-16 squad. The Knights (20-5, 17-3 MIAC) reached the 20-win mark for the first time in school history and will be the second seed in the upcoming MIAC Playoffs, as co-champion St. Thomas holds the tiebreaker on the Knights.
"I thought we could be up there in the league," Carleton head coach Guy Kalland said of his first title in his 22nd season on the Knights' bench despite 12 top-four conference finishes. "When we sat down with the guys after the team was solidified, we thought a top-three finish was in the realm of possibility."
He admitted to thoroughly enjoying the fact that his team was finally able to hang a banner in West Gym as conference champions. "You're not unlike a parent seeing your kid finishing second and third and you'd love to see them really smiling with the top prize," he said. "We've been focused on that the last couple of weeks - keeping our eyes on the prize."
"I told them before our last game when we broke the record for wins in a season, and I told them it could be a night you will never forget," he said. "I told them today it could be day not that you won't ever forget, but that the College won't ever forget."
The Knights shot 68 percent from the field in the second half while holding the Royals to 41 percent over the final 20 minutes. Charles Meadowcroft paced Bethel with 18 points and eight rebounds. Tim Madson came off the bench for 17 points and Matt Fredrickson and Trent Perry were also in double figures with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Carleton used a 24-9 run early in the second half to pull away after the Royals (15-10, 10-10 MIAC) had tied the game at 42-42. Brian Sharkey (Sr./Bow, N.H./St. Paul's School) and Johnson keyed the run with back-to-back three-pointers and Tommy Drake (So./Eden Prairie, Minn.) hit a triple and the lead grew to 11. Buckets by Phillips, Johnson and Forkrud pushed the advantage to 14 as the Knights completed the season sweep of the Royals.
The Knights broke to a quick 13-7 advantage before the Royals answered with two three-pointers. The Knights bumped the lead back to six, but the hosts used a quick 9-0 spurt to take their largest lead of the game, 29-26, with six minutes left in the half. The Knights scored the next six, four on Phillips free throws, and held a 40-36 lead at the break.
Carleton now gets a bye into the conference tournament semifinals and will host the highest remaining seed on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. [Please note this is the correct time, not 7 p.m.]