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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Knights win puts them in third place of MIAC

<rleton finished an action-packed week of men's basketball Wednesday night with a thrilling 72-67 victory over visiting Gustavus Adolphus. Senior forward Zach Johnson scored 28 points on 10-15 shooting as the Knights (11-4, 7-3 MIAC) avenged last year's playoff loss and drew even with the Gusties (8-7, 7-3 MIAC) for third in the conference standings.

“It’s a big win for us,” said Johnson. “They’ve knocked us out the last two years in the playoffs, so it’s really important to knock them down when we can.” Junior forward Bryan Rosett also had a big game for Carleton, tallying 18 points and 9 rebounds. His pair of free throws with 36 seconds on the clock put the Knights ahead 68-67 and set the stage for the play of the game, which came from an unexpected source.

On Gustavus’ next possession, with 16 seconds remaining and a boisterous Carleton cheering section on its feet, freshman guard Kellan McLemore stole the ball from Gustie leading scorer Jesse Van Sickle, calmly hit two free throws, grabbed a rebound, and drained two more from the line in the closing seconds to ice the victory.

“He’d made the same pass the last two times,” said McLemore, who helped to hold Van Sickle to a quiet 7 points on the night. “Fortunately I have long arms.”

The Carleton fans, who had been a source of humor all night with well-timed cracks at opposing players and officials, brought the intensity level up in the game’s final minutes.

“It’s really nice having the fan support,” Johnson agreed. “All the guys just gig up and go crazy, get in the other team’s head, and it just makes it a lot more fun to play.”

There was plenty to cheer about in this one, as the Knights executed on offense all night, shooting 51% from the field and going 15-17 at the line.

“We were just pushing the ball really well,” said Johnson, who dished out 5 of the team’s 12 assists. “We were getting good defensive rebounds, pushing the ball up the floor, and guys were just getting the ball to the right spots, playing good team basketball.”

With the victory, Carleton now trails only St. Thomas (11-0) and Augsburg (8-3) in the MIAC standings. “It’s big,” said McLemore. “[The Gusties] were second in the conference, and now we’re moving up. We needed this win after that tough loss [Monday vs. Bethel].”

Indeed, the Knights struggled on Monday, as they slipped early and were never able to recover, resulting in a hard-to-swallow 76-61 loss at the hands of the visiting Royals. The guests jumped out to a double-digit lead midway through the first half and never looked back, ballooning their advantage to as many as 26 in a game that saw the Knights go cold against a hard-nosed, physical defense, shooting only 40% (21-52) from the field..

Bethel’s forwards were better, faster, and stronger in this forgettable contest as they out-rebounded the Knights 38-29 and outscored them in the paint 38-22. Johnson managed to score a game-high 19 points, a solid performance for most players, but for Johnson only the fourth time he has been held under 20 this season as he shot an uncharacteristic 4-18 from the field. Fellow forward Bryan Rosett chipped in 12 for the Knights, but was hindered by foul trouble for much of the game.

The Knights did grab a victory last weekend, though, as Johnson exploded on offense for the second Saturday in a row, tying his career high with 36 points as the Knights outlasted a surprisingly pesky Macalester team for an 86-75 victory in St. Paul.

This game was mostly about Johnson, who earned his second consecutive MIAC Player of the Week honors. The lanky forward was too quick for his defenders in the post, as the Scots were forced to foul often, and make Johnson earn his points at the line. He did, making 13 of 16, more freebies than the entire Macalester team attempted against Carleton’s disciplined defense.

The Scots, still winless on the season, proved worthy competition in this one as they out shot Carleton 52% to 50% from the field. The difference, though, came on the boards, where the Knights had a 38-24 advantage, and in ball control, with Carleton committing only nine turnovers to Macalester’s 16.

The Knights were also helped by a career-high 12 points and 8 rebounds from sophomore big man Seth Jonker and Rosett’s third double-double of the year (11 points, 11 boards).

After going 2-1 in this critical week, Carleton will travel north on Saturday to take on Saint John’s (7-9, 5-6 MIAC), then host struggling Concordia (6-10, 3-8 MIAC) on Wednesday in a 7:45 p.m. tip at West Gym.

“We’ve just got to keep focused and keep motivated,” said Johnson. “Play some good D and win some games.”

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