St. Peter, Minn. – After trailing by as many as 23 in the second half, the Gustavus men's basketball team came within six with 6:21 to play in regulation, but it was all the closer the Gusties would get, as they dropped their Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) opener 81-73 to Augsburg on Wednesday night. With the loss, Gustavus falls to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the MIAC. Augsburg improves to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the MIAC.
The Auggies jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game and would never look back. The lead would reach as many as 13 in a first half that was dictated by seven offensive rebounds a 55.2-percent field goal percentage for Augsburg. Despite only four first half turnovers, the Gusties were unable to get anything going offensively, shooting just 36-percent from the floor and trailing 37-24 at the break.
Augsburg opened up its lead in the early going of the second half. The Auggies used a 19-9 run to begin the final frame that pushed their lead to 23 with 14:40 remaining. It wasn't until a jumper from Jim Hill (Sr., Edina, Minn.) at the 9:30 mark that the Gusties began to show some signs of life. A Blake Shay (Sr., Lakeville, Minn.) steal on the ensuing defensive possession led to another Hill jumper and the lead was cut to 16 at 64-48.
Back-to-back layups from Ben Biewen (Sr., Edina, Minn.) and Hill, respectively, cut deeper in to the lead to bring the score to 64-52. A free throw and a jumper by Shay brought the count to 64-55 with 7:24 left, and the lead was in single digits for the first time since the 7:02 mark of the first half. A deep three-pointer from Shay near the top of the key with 6:21 left cut the lead to six to put Gustavus within striking distance.
A driving layup by Parker Hines stopped the bleeding for the Auggies. Hines was fouled on the play and converted the free throw to push the Augsburg lead back to nine. It was as close as the Gusties would come, as the Auggies capitalized on 9-of-10 free throws down the stretch to seal the eight-point victory.
"We played 10 minutes of inspired basketball," stated head coach Mark Hanson. "Unfortunately, the first 30 put us too far behind. When we cut the lead to six, we had a few possessions that we would like to have back, but we need to make sure that we don't get in to that situation in the first place."
The Gusties were led by their trio of seniors once again on Wednesday night. Ben Biewen led the way with 19 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. Blake Shay followed Biewen with 16 points, six rebounds, and three steals, while Jim Hill contributed a 16-point effort.
Augsburg saw five players land in double figures, led by Parker Hines with 22. Hines was joined in double figures by his teammates Brett Rasmussen (15), Dan Kornbaum (13), Andy Seidlitz (12), and Tyler Schmidt (10).
The Gusties will be back in action at Gus Young Court on Saturday afternoon when they host Saint John's University at 3:00 p.m.