It had been 20 days since the Gustavus Adolphus men’s basketball team last played a game. Tuesday afternoon at Gus Young Court in St. Peter, the Gusties entertained a Wisconsin-La Crosse team that was playing its third game in four days.
While the Gusties may have had fresher legs with the long layoff, it was the Eagles that would dominate down the stretch as they broke open a close game and downed Gustavus 73-58 in a nonconference matchup.
Gustavus came into the game as the second best shooting team in the nation making 57.2 percent of their field goal attempts and sixth in the country from 3-point range at 45.6 percent.
On Tuesday, the Gusties only shot 40 percent from the floor and 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. Rust may have been a factor in the team’s offensive performance.
“I think you’re always worried about rust,” head coach Mark Hanson said. “We went two weeks without practicing at all. I’m not going to blame rust. We were in an even game with about 10 minutes left, and then they knocked some shots down and we didn’t answer it.”
The first 30 minutes was an evenly played game indicative of two teams that came in undefeated in their respective conferences (Gustavus 4-0 in the MIAC and Wisconsin-La Crosse 3-0 in the WIAC).
The Eagles got out to an 18-11 lead until the Gusties followed with four straight to make it 18-15 with 11:10 to go in the first half. The two teams exchanged baskets the rest of the half with La Crosse leading 33-30 at the break.
“I felt we got some good shots;, we just didn’t make them,” said junior guard Isaac Tapp, who finished with seven points. “That could have been a little bit of rust coming back, but I feel like we just didn’t hit open shots like we normally do.”
The game remained tight through the first 10 minutes of the second half. A Brody Ziegler and-one play made it 50-49 Eagles with 9:40 left. From then on, it was all Eagles.
Calahan Skogman was the catalyst in an 11-0 run to break the game open for the Eagles. He drained two 3s and connected on another jumper as Gustavus failed to make a shot during that critical four-minute stretch late in the game.
“Shooting is such a mental thing that when you don’t see some shots going in, the next ones become a little tougher,” Hanson said. “Some of that (shooting) percentage was in the second half when we forced some shots.”
Skogman led the Eagles with 26 points while teammate Luke Tweed added 15.
For Gustavus, Ziegler led the way with 13 points, and Martin Feddersen scored 11.
Gustavus (7-2) next plays Saturday at St. Olaf.