By Denny Weller
Special to The Free Press
ST PETER —
Senior Will DeBerg’s 17-point scoring burst over the first six minutes of the second half ignited a 25-5 run Wednesday night that lifted No.1-ranked St. Thomas to a 68-63 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s basketball win over Gustavus Adolphus at Lund Center.
DeBerg, the Tommies’ leading scorer at 12.3 points per game, was held scoreless over the opening 20 minutes as the upset-minded Golden Gusties grabbed a 37-33 halftime lead on back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Ben Biewen and freshman wing Chad Poppen. Senior wing Jim Hill put through eight points and Biewen netted seven in the stretch.
“I think we came out with a little extra energy and showed how good a team we could be in the first half,” said Biewen, who finished with 14 points and four rebounds. “We had a five minute stretch in the second half where they went on a run and that was the difference in the game.
“They found their shooters better in the second half. They didn’t look inside as much but they exposed the help-side and knocked down their shots.”
St.Thomas (22-1 overall, 17-1 in the MIAC) got things rolling from the get-go in the second half as DeBerg buried a right-side 3-pointer just 16 seconds in. After Jordan Dick’s elbow jumper put the Gusties in front, two baskets from 6-foot-4 Zach Riedeman along with four long-range bombs and a layup from DeBerg quickly rocketed the Tommies to a 52-38 advantage with 14:28 remaining.
“They do so many things offensively that put a lot of pressure on you,” Gustavus coach Mark Hanson said. “I am very proud of our effort, we just made too many mistakes for a stretch there in the second half and made a good team get comfortable.”
Gustavus (12-10, 10-8) began its comeback when senior wing Blake Shay nailed a 3-pointer and Dick tossed in an 8-foot turnaround. Dick, who ended up with 11 points and three assists, then fired in a top-of-the-key 3-pointer before Biewen’s 12-foot pull-up jumper and right-side 3-pointer trimmed the Tommies’ lead to 64-61 with 2:22 to go.
Biewen tallied 14 points and four rebounds for the Gusties, who shot 60 percent in the first half and 27 of 56 overall for 48.2 percent.
After the Gusties failed on two possessions, senior post Tommy Hannon’s inside hoop with 38 seconds left and DeBerg’s two foul shots sealed the victory for the Tommies.
DeBerg led all scorers with 19 points while teammate John Nance scored 11. St. Thomas connected on 27 of 53 from the field for 50.9 percent.
“It was a good fight,” said Hill, who led the Gusties with 15 points and 11 rebounds. “They hurt us with the lob inside the first time we played them so we had to play a lot of help-side. But at the same time we knew they had good shooters on the weak side so it was kind of a cat-and-mouse game and we played it well in the first half.”
Gustavus continues its push for a berth in the MIAC postseason tournament Wednesday when it plays at Carleton College.