NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- Despite a 20-point, nine-rebound, and six-assist performance from senior forward Taylor Hanson (St. Paul, Minn./Minnehaha Academy)—his seventh career game with 20 or more tallies—the Carleton College men’s basketball team fell to the visitors from Saint John’s by a final score of 74-67.
For Carleton (9-14, 7-11 MIAC), the loss has significant playoff implications; however, the Knights still do have a path into the MIAC tournament, thanks to a Bethel loss at Augsburg. Carleton must now win its remaining two contests—on the road at Augsburg and home against Macalester—and hope for a Bethel home loss to St. Olaf on the final day of regular-season play. In that scenario, the Knights and Royals would end the year tied at 9-11, with Carleton holding the tiebreaker by virtue of sweeping the season series. If Concordia also wins its final two games, and all three teams finish at 9-11, the Knights also hold the three-team tiebreaker by going 3-1 versus the other two squads.
Meanwhile, today’s victory clinched a playoff spot for the Johnnies (13-10, 11-7 MIAC), who have won 8 of their last 10 games.
Offensively, Saint John’s was simply too strong throughout the game, shooting over 56 percent from the field overall and a scorching 65 percent during the second half. Carleton did put up strong marks with 52 percent shooting in the second half and 46 percent overall, but the home squad couldn’t match the Johnnies’ shooting.
At no point in the contest was this more evident than during a five-plus minute stretch during the first period when the visitors put together an impressive 15-2 run. The spurt, which started when the game was tied at 17-17 with 8:35 on the clock, did not come to a close until the Johnnies had assembled a 32-19 lead, their largest of the game, with 3:14 left in the period.
The Knights responded with a 9-0 run of their own to narrow the deficit to four and eventually trailed 35-28 at the break.
The second half saw the Johnnies maintain lead of between 5-9 points until Mitchell Biewen (Fy./Golden Valley, Minn./Armstrong) drained a big three-pointer from the right wing with 5:05 to play. The long-range jumper, part of an 11-point afternoon for the Knights’ first-year guard, cut the Saint John’s lead to just 60-56.
Unfortunately for the Knights’ faithful at West Gym, the pendulum quickly swung back the Johnnies’ way. The visitors strung together four consecutive scoring possessions, including four free-throws and a layup from forward Blake Maslonkowski, who paced the visitors with a career high 18 points. All of a sudden Saint John’s had built its largest buffer of the half, a ten-point, 66-56 advantage with only 3:35 left to play. And thanks to a solid 6-of-8 performance from the free-throw stripe down the stretch, the Knights never got any closer than six points the rest of the way.
Shane McSparron (Jr./Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview) finished in double figures for the sixth consecutive game, tallying 12 points. John Eckert (So./North Judson, Ind./North Judson) and Tianen Chen (Fy./Germantown Hills, Ill./Metamora Township) recorded nine points apiece.
Mitchell Kuck and Seth Marx joined Maslonkowski in double-figures for the Johnnies. That duo was a combined 10-of-15 from the floor, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
The playoffs essentially start for the Knights on Wednesday, Feb. 19 when they travel to Augsburg College for a must-win game that can be heard on KDHL 920 AM in the Northfield/Faribault area and worldwide via Knights Online. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.