In a historic upset, the Carleton men’s basketball team traveled to St. Paul last night and knocked off No. 3 St. Thomas 73-67 in the semifinals of the MIAC playoffs. With the win, Carleton’s 11th in their last 12 games, the Knights advance to the conference championship, where they will face Gustavus Adolphus Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in St. Peter, Minn.
Jeremy Sutherland scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the second half as Carleton (18-9)withstood a furious comeback by the Tommies in the game’s final minutes. Seth Jonker added 19 points and eight rebounds as the Knights shot a blistering 60 percent from the floor, including 9-of-17 from three-point range.
The win snapped St. Thomas’ 55-game home win streak against conference teams.
The first half was a back-and-forth tussle as the lead changed numerous . The Knights began to pull ahead in the period’s closing minutes, however, highlighted by Bryan Rosett’s thunderous fast-break dunk over two defenders with 1:01 remaining. The Knights took a 30-24 halftime lead.
Carleton would never relinquish their lead in the second half, as they turned the heat up even further, shooting 65 percent from the floor in the period, including 6-of-9 from long range. Sutherland and the Knights seemed to have the answer for every St. Thomas run, and the lead ballooned to 15 at 66-51 on Sutherland’s rainmaker with 3:02 left to play.
But the Tommies, who had lost only one game against MIAC foes over the past two years, came roaring back, knocking down a barrage of three-pointers during a 14-2 run that cut the lead to 68-65 on Joe Scott’s triple with 44 seconds remaining.
The Knights, having missed key free throws down the stretch to blow a late lead in their last contest against the Tommies, made four freebies in the closing minute to come away with arguably the greatest upset in school history.
When Sutherland added an exclamation point with a rim-rocking dunk in the final seconds, the sizeable throng of Carleton fans who made the trip was sent into frenzy that erupted into an on-court celebration once the final horn sounded.
In addition to the star play of Sutherland and Jonker, Carter Biewen added 11 points for the Knights, connecting on all three of his attempts from downtown. Rosett and Blaise Davis each tallied eight points.
After beginning the conference season 3-7, the red-hot Knights, who had never won a playoff road game until last night, will now play Saturday for their first-ever MIAC playoff title, having reached the championship twice before. A win would mean an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Knights will take on the second-seeded Gusties, who topped Augsburg in a 59-57 nail-biter to reach the final. Carleton split its regular season matchups with Gustavus, winning 60-55 on the road Jan. 20 after falling 55-46 at home Dec. 2. Tip-off on Saturday is slated for 7:30 p.m. Keep your ears open for information about a fan bus.