NORTHFIELD, Minn. – In a back-and-forth affair that featured eight ties and a dozen lead changes, the Carleton College men’s basketball team came up just short against the visiting squad from Gustavus Adolphus College, 54-52. Although the Knights received a 13-point, eight-rebound, and seven-assist performance from senior Scott Theisen (Champlin, Minn./Champlin Park) and 12 points from guard Tom Sawatzke (Sr./Monticello, Minn./Monticello), those contributions were not enough to push Carleton to victory and secure a MIAC playoff spot.
Despite tonight’s result, Carleton (14-10, 11-8 MIAC) still controls its own destiny in the playoff hunt. The pressure is now placed squarely on Saturday’s regular-season finale versus Hamline University. A win means Carleton advances to the post-season, while a defeat will call for some outside help in the form of a loss from either Bethel University or Saint John’s University.
Tonight’s game was tightly contested throughout. Gustavus (14-10, 11-8 MIAC) used a 7-0 run to take a 23-17 advantage with 6:17 to go in the opening half. That proved to be as much separation as either team would get. Carleton responded with six consecutive points in the paint, and the Gusties would later carry a 28-27 lead into the break.
The opening five minutes of the second half featured five lead changes, a tie, and the Knights largest lead of the game after a Theisen layup put the home team up 38-35 with 16:22 to play. Neither side managed to grab much in terms of lasting momentum.
Although the Gusties put together a short 8-0 run to build a five-point, 43-38 advantage with 12:36 left in the second half, the Knights simply answered right back. A pair of three pointers from Tyler Goetz (Sr./Chaska, Minn./Chaska) and a rebound put back from junior Taylor Hanson (Saint Paul, Minn./Minnehaha Academy) led Carleton on a 10-2 surge that push the hosts back on top by a score of 48-45 with 7:45 to play.
Over the next six-plus minutes, the Knights endured a scoring drought from the field, but solid defense kept the home team afloat until Sawatzke nailed a big three-pointer with 1:25 to go. The triple gave Carleton a 52-49 lead and set up a tense final minute of the matchup.
Gustavus pulled to within one point with 41 seconds remaining, and after the Knights missed the front end of a one-and-one on their next possession, the Gusties took back the lead, 53-52, on a layup from Jim Hill with 17 seconds remaining.
The free-throw line proved unkind to the Knights in the final minute as Carleton missed all four of its chances at charity stripe, part of an uncharacteristic 31-percent performance at the line.
Sawatzke climbed to No. 16 on Carleton’s all-time scoring list, moving past Jim Lovrien ’98 and Jake Phillips ’07. Theisen is now 24th on the same chart after surpassing Michael Armacost ’58 and Tom Klimisch ’95.
Hanson narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds. Goetz added nine points, and John Eckert (Fy./North Judson, Ind./North Judson) chipped in seven points and seven rebounds.
Jordan Dick was the lone Gustie in double figures, finishing with 13 points. Hill, Issac Tapp, and Ben Biewen each tallied nine points for the Gusties.
The Carleton loss, coupled with victories tonight by both Bethel and Saint John’s, sets up an exciting final regular-season finale. The Knights host Hamline as part of a women’s-men’s doubleheader. Live video and live stats from the crucial MIAC matchup at West Gym can be found on Knights Online. The ladies tipoff at 1 p.m. followed by the gentlemen at 3 p.m.