The Carleton men’s basketball team must have stopped by the Guthrie Theater before their game at Augsburg on Saturday, because the Knights have shown off a remarkable flair for the dramatic ever since.
In Saturday’s clash with the Auggies and again on Wednesday at Saint John’s, Carleton needed a big second-half comeback to keep the game close. As is often the case when you wait until the last minute, you win some and you lose some.
In both games, the Knights trailed by 15 points with under 15 minutes to play. On Saturday, they climbed the mountain and forced overtime, only to see the Auggies snatch the win out from under their nose in the extra period, 58-55. There would be no such thievery on Wednesday, however, as Carleton completed the comeback and made the bus ride home from Collegeville much more pleasant by winning, 59-54.
Caleb Rosenow ‘12 led the way against Saint John’s, notching his first career double-double with 15 points and a career-best 11 rebounds.
Trailing 44-29 with 11:58 remaining, the Knights (12-7, 11-3 MIAC) went on a 20-3 run over seven minutes, taking a 49-47 lead when Jeremy Sutherland ’11 sunk three free throws with 5:53 remaining. The Johnnies (9-10, 5-9 MIAC) tied the score three times down the stretch, but Seth Jonker ’11 provided the answer for Carleton, scoring three consecutive field goals in the final 3:30 to lift the Knights to victory.
“We ratcheted up our defense in the second half and finished really strong,” Carleton head coach Guy Kalland said. “We showed a lot of maturity tonight.”
In a game characterized by physical play and runs, Carleton jumped out to a 19-12 lead on a Sutherland jumper with 6:46 remaining in the first half. SJU exploded for a 17-2 run to close the half, however, holding the Knights without a field goal over the final five minutes of the period to take a 29-21 advantage into the break.
The Johnnie lead ballooned into double digits to start the second half, but then Rosenow, Sutherland, and Jonker took over the contest, scoring 11, 10, and 10 points, respectively, during the second period. Point guard Tom Sawatzke ‘13 added seven points during the stanza.
“We did a nice job not panicking when they made their run,” Kalland said. “Tom did a great job running the offense down the stretch, and we were able to get Jeremy, Seth, and Caleb chances to score on our stuff.”
Rosenow dominated the post, converting a trio of old-fashioned three-point plays during the comeback, while Jonker made tough shot after tough shot down the stretch. His final three baskets included a reverse layup, a long jumper, and a nifty hook shot over SJU’s 6-foot-9-inch Nermin Hujdorovic that gave Carleton a 57-53 lead with 1:58 to play.
The Knights’ defense was relentless during crunch time, as Saint John’s was unable to convert a field goal attempt over the final 5:43. Todd Herman sunk the first of two free throws to make it a one-possession game with 1:24 to go, but the Johnnies would get no closer as the Knights forced a pair of second-chance misses on the SJU end. Chris Schwartz had a look at a game-tying three-pointer with six seconds remaining, but he misfired and Sawatzke drained a pair of clutch free throws to ice the win for Carleton.
Jonker and Sutherland complemented Rosenow’s big night, finishing with 14 points each while Sawatke chipped in 10.
“This was a hard-fought game between two teams that really wanted to win,” Kalland said. “We’re fortunate to pick up a tough win on the road against a very good team.”
For a few fleeting moments, it looked as if the same could have been said for Saturday’s affair at Augsburg, but Lady Luck sided against the Knights in this one.
Jonker scored all of his team-high 14 points during the second-half comeback, but the Carleton couldn't hold on in overtime, snapping its four-game win streak and falling 58-55 to the host Auggies (12-8, 7-8 MIAC). The Knights overcame a 15-point deficit during the game's final 14 minutes to force the extra period, but Sutherland, a name usually synonymous with the word clutch, came up empty on a pair of three-point attempts in the closing seconds.
After a sluggish start by both teams, the contest turned into a game of runs with Carleton taking a 14-4 lead with 13:35 remaining in the first half. Augsburg dominated the middle section of the contest, however, outscoring the Knights 36-11 over the next 20 minutes. The Auggies evened the score at 23 going into halftime then exploded for a 17-2 run to start the second period. Trailing 40-25 with 14 minutes remaining, Carleton recovered, posting a 24-9 run of its own to set up a dramatic finish to regulation.
With 48 seconds remaining, Jonker buried a jumper to complete the comeback and even the score at 49. An errant pass nearly led to an Augsburg turnover on the ensuing possession, but Andy Grzesiak-Grimm made a phenomenal play to save the ball from going out of bounds. After a missed three-pointer, Cory Polta grabbed a big offensive rebound to set the Auggies up for a final shot with 12 seconds remaining, but the Knights, knowing they were still five fouls from the 1-and-1 bonus, committed three heady fouls to whittle the clock down to under two seconds and force Augsburg into a catch-and-shoot play. Grzesiak-Grimm had a decent look from the baseline but misfired and the game headed to overtime.
The two defenses clamped down in the extra period as both squads scored just once over the first three-and-a-half minutes. Sutherland converted a tough layup to put the Knights up 53-51 with 1:12 remaining, but Ben Flavin responded with a pair of free throws at the other end to even things up. With under a minute to go, Carleton went to Jonker and the senior responded, nailing a contested fadeaway to put the Knights back in front. Tyler Schmidt hit the game's biggest shot on the next possession, however, bouncing in a three-pointer off the Auggies’ benevolent home rim to give the lead back to the hosts, 56-55, with 16 seconds remaining. The Knights then put the ball in the hands of their top scorer, but Sutherland's three-pointer with seven seconds remaining rimmed out. Carleton immediately fouled, but Flavin hit another pair of clutch free throws to put the Auggies up by three. With one last chance to tie, Carleton found Sutherland behind the arc again, but the senior couldn't connect from the left side and the Knights could not get off another shot before time expired.
Post play highlighted the exciting second half, as both Polta and Jonker carried their teams for stretches of the period. Neither big man scored in the first half, but by the final buzzer, both had tallied 14 points to lead their squads. Sutherland added 13 points for the Knights.
Both teams shot between 40 and 45 percent from the floor but struggled from long range, with the Knights connecting on just 4-of-21 three-point attempts (19 percent) and Augsburg 2-of-16 (12.5 percent). The Auggies benefited from 15 trips to the free throw line compared to just five for Carleton.
The 1-1 week does not harm the Knights’ playoff aspirations, however, thanks to some help from their friends further down in the standings. Third-place Gustavus Adolphus lost back-to-back games to lowly Macalester and Hamline on Monday and Wednesday, and even the Oles were looking out for their pals across the river, as they scored a big upset win over first-place St. Thomas on Monday.
Heading into the weekend, Carleton finds itself trailing the Tommies by 1.5 games and leading the third-place Gusties by an equal measure. All that could change over the coming week, however, as the Knights host Gustavus tomorrow at 3 p.m. then welcome St. Thomas to town on Wednesday night at 7:30. One way or another, these will be two defining games for your squad, so put the homework aside for a few hours and head to West Gym for them. Plenty of drama surely awaits.