ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Senior Scott Theisen (Champlin, Minn/Champlin Park) was sensational. The versatile wing’s career-high tying 31 points helped the Carleton College men’s basketball team nearly knock off the nationally No. 1-ranked University of St. Thomas in the semifinals of the MIAC Playoffs. Theisen’s stellar performance, the highest post-season point total by a Knight in at least 15 years, was not enough, though, as St. Thomas used a late run to snap a tie and advance to the conference championship game by a score of 70-57.
The final score does not indicate how tightly contested this game was. Led by Theisen and senior guard Tom Sawatzke (Monticello, Minn./Monticello), who tallied 14 points of his own, Carleton (15-11, 12-9 MIAC) pushed the Tommies until the game’s final minutes. Although the Knights never held a lead in the contest, they erased a 12-point deficit early in the second half and knotted the score at 57-57 with only 4:32 to play. Carleton missed its final six shots, and St. Thomas (25-1, 20-1 MIAC) tallied points on its final five trips down the floor, but it took all the Tommies had to move on in the playoffs.
The evening started off slowly for the Knights, who hit on just 1-of their first-10 shots from the field. Carleton trailed St. Thomas 12-2 after the opening four-plus minutes, and the Tommies kept Carleton at bay over the next five, holding on to a 20-11 advantage with 9:35 to play in the half. At this point, Carleton finally started to find its offensive rhythm.
Sparked by a Sawatzke three-point basket at the 9:17 mark, the Knights put together a 10-2 run to climb back in it. Carleton’s staunch defense held the Tommies, who paced all NCAA men’s basketball team by making 53 percent of their shots, to 38 percent mark from the field in the opening period. The Knights pulled them to within one point, 22-21, with just 4:15 left in the half. St. Thomas, however, put together a mini run of its own, and the score sat at 33-27 at the halftime break.
The momentum that the Tommies took into the break seemed to carry over into the second half. The home team scored 10 of the period’s first 14 points, and built a seemingly comfortable cushion, 43-31, 16:39 to play. Three minutes later, St. Thomas still held a double-digit lead. At this point, down 47-36 with 13:38 to go, Carleton started to rally.
Theisen scored 13 of his game-high point total as Carleton went on an extended 21-10 run over the contest’s next nine-plus minutes. He knocked down a pair of free throws with 4:32 left, tying the game at 57-57 and invigorating the loud and proud traveling Carleton student section
The big Knights run, which also featured three-pointers from Sawatzke and wing Tyler Goetz (Sr./Chaska, Minn./Chaska), put St. Thomas on its heels. With the home team reeling, it looked as if the Knights might pull off the major upset.
However, after a Tommies timeout, the top-seeded club proved why they hold the highest ranking in Division III, scoring the MIAC semifinal matchup’s final 13 points. Unable to stem the late Tommies’ tide, Carleton’s comeback fell short, and the Knight’s season ended with a 70-57 defeat.
Zach Riedeman led St. Thomas with 17 points. Erik Tengwall added 12 points.
Sawatzke finished his career with 1,145 career points, the 15th-highest total in team history. He drained two more three pointers, raising his season total to 81, the third-highest figure in Carleton history.
Theisen concludes his career with 1,100 points, ranking 19th all-time. He is fifth all-time with 302 assists and tied for seventh with 141 career steals. He had 151 assists this season, second-most in team history.