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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Tough midterm break for men’s basketball

<ugh a playoff berth is already secure, it was a disheartening midterm break for the men's basketball team, as it came up short in a pair of close games over the long weekend, leaving itself in a Musseresque party crowded five-way tie for second place in the MIAC. Despite the best efforts of a packed-in and passionate West Gym crowd, the Knights could not take down No. 1 St. Thomas on Saturday, falling 68-59. On the road Monday, Carleton never found its rhythm on offense and was dominated on the boards by Gustavus, falling 59-52.

The two games did, however, see senior forward Zach Johnson bring himself much closer to the school’s all-time scoring record. With 16 points on Monday and 24 Saturday, the co-captain is now just 16 points away from tying Josh Wilhelm’s monumental mark of 1,967 career points.

Despite Johnson’s heroic pursuit, the Knights were conquered for the second time this year by the nation’s top Division III program last Saturday. Carleton hung tough all game and even lead 18-14 midway through the first half, but the Tommies exerted their dominance with a 15-0 run going into halftime that put the Knights in too deep a whole.

“We’re better than the last time we played them,” said head coach Guy Kalland, whose team did achieve one of its objectives in committing fewer turnovers (13) against the Tommies, than itself or other opponents have recently. “The last three teams that have played them have had 37 turnovers, 28 and 26,” Kalland noted. “That was one of our goals, to handle the pressure.”

In the end, it was simply the Tommies athletic superiority that proved the difference. “They’re just athletic as hell,” said Kalland. “It’s not that we got confused on sets they’re running, it’s that they just break you down one on one. They’re all natural passers, and they’re quick and jump and athletic and they all understand the game.”

Junior forward Bryan Rosett, who gave the Knights his standard strong effort in the paint with 13 points and 9 rebounds, agreed. “They run a good offense,” he said. “They shoot a lot of layups, a lot of high percentage shots.”

Bodies were flying near the basket from start to finish, as the game took on a particularly rough style of play thanks to loose officiating that drew considerable ire from Carleton’s raucous student section. “It got more than a little physical when we got the ball to our players inside,” Kalland said. “Just a lot of stuff they let go.”

The aggressive Tommies took advantage, outscoring the Knights 36-20 in the paint. Unlike many of the spectators, though, Rosett was not bothered by the liberality of the referees. “They let us bang a little bit,” he said. “They were consistent, so it wasn’t too bad.”

Rosett did some banging of his own, turning in perhaps the play of the game when, seconds after a failed dunk attempt by the Tommies’ B.J. Viau, he stole the ball from St. Thomas point guard and threw down a two-handed jam with a defender in his face. Despite coming in the game’s final minute with the outcome all but decided, the slam certainly gave Carleton fans something to cheer about.

To reach a rematch, though, the Knights will likely have to beat several of the MIAC’s other strong teams, one of which, Gustavus, they fell to Monday. Carleton shot a lowly 36% from the field, only its second time under 40% all season, and failed to compete under the basket in another physical contest, grabbing only 23 rebounds to the Gusties’ 39, marking the Knights’ second-worst margin of the year on the glass.

Aside from Johnson’s 16 points, Rosett did near another double-double with 10 points and 8 boards and big man Seth Jonker ’11 gave a strong effort off the bench with 8 points and 5 rebounds, but after a back-and-forth first half the Knights were never able to rouse themselves and take a lead in the second period.

The team will be counting on more asserted efforts than it showed Monday this coming week. After Saturday’s potentially historic matchup with the Scots, which will take place at 3:00 p.m., the Knights, seeking ever-important momentum and a high seed heading into the conference playoffs, end the regular season with two big road games against Augsburg this Wednesday and Bethel the following Saturday.

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