It all comes together for one Knight

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Mitchell Biewen couldn't get open on the win, but Carleton found a way in the closing seconds, knocking off a second MIAC contender in two games.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, 

The play was intended to free up Mitchell Biewen for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

The Carleton junior guard, whose shooting percentage from outside had risen to 53.1 percent so far this season after a .336 mark a year ago, was feeling confident. He had drained a three on the Knights’ last possession that put them up one before third-ranked St. Thomas answered.

Point guard Peter Bakker-Arkema drove to the right baseline, and John Eckert readied to set a screen for Biewen on the left wing. St. Thomas’ Cortez Tillman wasn’t letting Biewen out of his sight, so the Knights innovated.


The week prior, Carleton was humbled in a pair of defeats to Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps out west, falling 72-66 to the Sagehens and 64-43 to the Stags to drop to 2-2.

The Knights returned to Minnesota with an idea of what had gone wrong.

“We had some good practices and we really focused on all of our different checks in the offense and going through the offense instead of just trying to get through it, which I think could have been part of what was going on in California,” Biewen said.

Was what happened in the final seconds at UST’s Schoenecker Arena a direct result of that focus? It’s hard to say. But you can’t ignore the connection.

“We executed pretty well in the last couple games,” Biewen said, “which I think was the difference.”


The Knights scored on eight of their last 10 possessions Saturday at St. Thomas, including a memorable final one.

Eckert turned away from the basket to get a better angle on Tillman. Biewen dove to the hoop, collected the pass from Bakker-Arkema and tossed in a reverse layup with 0.9 seconds left to complete a 15-point second-half comeback with a 67-66 win.

“It almost felt kind of in slow motion. I caught it and had two bigs, and their momentum was going the other way so I wanted to finish on the other side of the hoop to avoid getting it blocked,” Biewen said. “I just saw it go in and I was worried about getting back. John was hugging me at half court as they were throwing it in.”

Biewen scored seven of his game-high 19 points in the final 29 seconds, getting some help on the final two from a forward head coach Guy Kalland called, “a non-statistical contributor as good as anyone I’ve ever had in my 32 years at Carleton,” on Sunday night’s episode of Hoopsville.

“I give credit to John. He’s one of the best screeners I’ve ever played with,” Biewen said. “He just read it and set the back screen and freed me up.”

It capped an unbelievable week for the Knights, who knocked off St. John’s 70-64 behind Tianen Chen’s career-high 26 points on Wednesday. The Tommies and Johnnies were picked to finish 1-2 in the preseason MIAC poll, but suddenly, no one is overlooking Carleton, the team projected eighth.

“We’re very confident right now but we’re also not complacent,” Biewen said. “Hopefully we’ll be at our best by the end of the season, better than we are now. At that point, I think, if we are, we’ll be at the top of the MIAC.”


Carleton celebrates its last-second win, while St. Thomas walks off and Carleton coach Guy Kalland stands by and watches.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

This is all conjecture at this point, only two – or for some teams, one – game into the MIAC campaign.

But a week like that is a big deal. As UST coach John Tauer said earlier this season, “The vast majority of times we’ve lost, teams have rushed the court and sometimes our freshmen look at us like, ‘this is just a regular season game,’ but, hey, that’s every single night out.”

Just down the road in Arden Hills, a three-week stretch like this is a big deal. Well, from the outside looking in anyway.

Bethel is 6-0 for the first time in program history. The Royals, picked fourth in the preseason poll, haven’t played St. John’s, St. Thomas or St. Olaf. But they’ve beaten defending IIAC and UMAC champions Buena Vista and Northwestern, and they’ve done it without leading returning scorer Brycen Wojta.

Four different players have led the Royals in scoring during Wojta’s absence, including Minnesota-Duluth transfer Derek Magnuson, who’s averaging a team-high 15.5 points and 7.3 rebounds.

When Wojta returns from injury (Bethel coach Doug Novak expects him to practice and be close to full strength in a couple weeks), BU should be even better.

What does it mean for this team to be in this position?

“Not very much,” Novak said.

He, like the other 10 teams, realize this is a 20-game schedule lengthened over three months. It’s tough to navigate that and reach your end goals, which is what makes St. Thomas’ 10-year run on top eye-opening.

“As the year goes on and there’s more pressure within the games, that’s when it really starts to get fun,” Novak said. “To see both offensively and defensively how you connect, and be able to battle through some adversity and some ups and downs, handle your losses just like you handle your wins.”

You know the Tommies (who fell to No. 6 in this week’s poll), Johnnies and Oles aren’t even close to panicking. But fans sure are keeping their eyes out for other potential contenders, because the instant you expect one thing, a backdoor cut leaves you shaking your head at the depth of this league.

Whitworth winning

Having mentioned Bethel’s unbeaten start without its top returner earlier in the column, it would be unfair to not recognize what the Whitworth men are doing.

The Pirates are 7-0 and now ranked No. 2 in the country, their last four wins coming without reigning Northwest Conference MVP Kenny Love.

The 6-1 junior guard is day to day with an eye injury, according to Whitworth’s athletics website. He was averaging 15.3 points this season.

George Valle (16.6), Christian Jurlina (15.4) and Matt Staduacher (12.4) have aided in the scoring column. Staudacher had a career-high 25 in a win over Colorado College.

And, oh by the way, NWC rival Whitman (6-0) is also undefeated. Jan. 5 can’t come soon enough.

Shootout on the frontier

Dubuque’s Andre Norris held the Nebraska Wesleyan Snyder Classic single-game scoring record for a couple hours.

Norris put up 36 points in a 132-121 win over Greenville on Saturday, only to be bested by another Iowa Conference forward in the last game of the tournament.

Central’s Colby Taylor went off for 42 points on 16 of 24 shooting in a 107-102 overtime loss to host NWU to snag the record for at least a year.

With two up-temp systems in Nebraska Wesleyan and Greenville playing it should be no surprise the four teams combined for 866 points in the two-day tournament.

All four winners put up 100-plus points, with the Dutch and Spartans besting Greenville and falling to future conference rival Nebraska Wesleyan.

It’s obvious the Prairie Wolves – who beat Buena Vista 109-104 earlier this year – will add an exciting element to the IIAC next season.

Oles rolling

The St. Olaf women have racked up six wins in a row, making a 73-49 season-opening loss at Wartburg all the more befuddling.

The Oles pitched a first-quarter shutout (26-0) in a 71-42 win over Crown, then won two games in its Thanksgiving tournament, including an impressive upset of then-No. 23 Luther that knocked the Norse out of the top 25.

St. Olaf got 15 points from Afton Wolter and Betsey Daly, who also had 10 boards, and held a dynamic Luther offense to 30.2 percent shooting, including just 4 of 26 (15.4 percent) from downtown.

Perhaps even more crucial, St. Olaf turned it over only nine times against the Norse’s aggressive, trapping defense.

The Oles began MIAC play with wins over Augsburg and St. Benedict and host Concordia-Moorhead on Wednesday in a game that features two teams looking to break into the upper tier of the league standings.

Women’s notes

Quincey Gibson was an assist away from a triple double in Linfield’s 90-48 demolishing of Caltech. She had a career-high 21 points and 10 rebounds … Buena Vista’s Lexi Fisher eclipsed 1,000 career points with a team-high 19-point outing in the Beavers’ 82-71 defeat of Grand View Nov. 27 … Emily Sheldon tossed in a career-high 34 points in Puget Sound’s NWC-opening 79-67 defeat of crosstown rival Pacific Lutheran. The Loggers trailed by six with 24 seconds to play and forced overtime on Alex Noren’s buzzer-beating layup … St. Thomas extended its MIAC winning streak to 27 with two wins last week – including a 100-28 thrashing of Carleton – and vaulted up to No. 7 in the top 25 with a 7-0 overall start … Jenna Januschka tied her career high with 22 points and added nine rebounds as Concordia-Moorhead knocked off MIAC preseason favorite Bethel 62-55 Saturday … UW-Superior debuted at 2-0 in its first weekend of UMAC play, handling Bethany Lutheran 79-60 and Martin Luther 63-47.

Men’s notes

Simpson became only the second team in the last six years to hold Grinnell to 80 points or less in the Storm’s 103-80 victory Nov. 24 … Pacific Lutheran set school scoring, first-half scoring (68), field goal (55) and margin of victory records with a 130-52 victory over Northwest Indian … Loras broke a school record with 20 3-pointers in a 104-67 win over Eureka … St. Scholastica’s 85-68 defeat of St. Mary’s marked its largest margin of victory over a MIAC school since 2005-06 … Bethany Lutheran gave UW-Superior a rude UMAC welcome, prevailing 92-80 Friday in a game that featured 17 ties and 13 lead changes; the Yellow Jackets beat Martin Luther 84-67 the next day for their first UMAC victory … Nick Clark scored 18 straight points at one point in the second half and finished with 32 to will defending IIAC Buena Vista (2-4) to its first win, 73-65 over UW-Eau Claire … CD Douglas tied a Minnesota-Morris record with 35 points in the Cougars’ thrilling 109-105 overtime triumph over Crown.

Nathan Ford

Nathan Ford is the digital sports editor at The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He graduated from Wartburg College in 2015, where he covered Wartburg and Iowa Conference athletics in print and broadcast for four years. He began contributing to in 2013.