HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Tom Sawatzke (Sr./Monticello, Minn./Monticello) was a career-best 7-of-10 from beyond the arc, including a fall away triple as time expired to lift Carleton College to a 74-71 victory over Hawaii Pacific University, a NCAA Division II program. Sawatzke had 17 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. He drained the game-tying three-pointer with 0:32 left, then connected at the buzzer to lift the Knights to their first-ever victory over the Sea Warriors.
Both sides were effective from beyond the arc. Led by Sawatzke’s performance, Carleton was 11-of-20 (55 percent) from long range, while Hawaii Pacific made 12-of-21 (57 percent) of its attempts.
“It was an interesting game,” said Carleton head coach Guy Kalland. “I give us an A-plus across the board for battling. We were able to get Tom some good looks in the second half, and like a senior should, he delivered.”
However, Sawatzke was not without help as the Knights (2-0) had five players in double figures and managed to out-rebound a stronger, more physical Hawaii Pacific squad. That helped Carleton post a 13-5 edge in second-chance points and play nearly even on points in the paint.
Forwards Taylor Hanson (Jr./Saint Paul, Minn./Minnehaha Academy) and Tyler Goetz (Sr./Chaska, Minn./Chaska) each had five rebounds and a team-best four assists. The duo finished the night with 13 and 11 points respectively. Scott Theisen (Sr./Champlin, Minn./Champlin Park) contributed 12 points and pulled down six boards. John Eckert (Fy./North Judson, Ind./North Judson) came off the bench and filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, a game-high seven rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.
Initially Carleton struggled to get into an offensive rhythm but Goetz knocked down a pair of early three pointers to stake the visitors to an 11-6 lead. Hawaii Pacific responded with a 10-0 burst over the next two minutes. The contest remained close for much of the first period that featured six ties and four lead changes. The Sea Warriors closed the half on an 11-0 run to carry a 40-32 lead into intermission.
The hosts extended their advantage to double digits early in the second half, but the Knights refused to go away. Hanson converted a layup midway through the second period, pulling Carleton within 53-52. On the next trip down the floor, Sawatzke’s shot from beyond the arc briefly gave the Knights the lead.
The Sea Warriors answered with a 9-0 spurt and held a 62-55 lead with eight minutes still to play.
Eckert provided the spark with seven points during Carleton’s subsequent 13-1 outburst that spanned four-plus minutes. He started rally with an offensive rebound and putback and capped the run in a similar fashion.
With the home team trailing by five, Hawaii Pacific scored the game’s next eight points and led 71-68 with under a minute remaining. Sawatzke buried the game-tying shot with 32 seconds still on the clock, giving him a 20-point effort for the second time this season and sixth in his career.
The Sea Warriors missed two free throws with 9.8 seconds to go, and Shane McSparron (So./Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview) pulled down the rebound. Following timeout, Sawatzke’s heave from the right wing banked in, giving the Knights the hard-fought victory.
“I gave it my best attempt as possible. It was off the mark, but it ended up being the right angle,” said Sawatzke. “We fought hard enough and gave ourselves a chance there in the final minute. It was as good of a team win from these guys as I’ve seen in a long time. Very much a team win.”
Hawaii Pacific had won the previous eight meetings, but Carleton had closed the gap as of late, dropping the last four games by a combined total of 16 points with two of those contests going to overtime.
The Knights will fly back to the mainland on Monday and travel to South Dakota where they will face another Division II foe, Northern State University, on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m.