Led by 35 points from Jeremy Beckler ’23, the Carleton College men’s basketball team captured its first MIAC Playoff Championship since 2010 with an 86-76 victory over Saint John’s University. This was the Knights’ third win against the Johnnies’ this season, as Beckler scored 30 or more in each of the matchups.
“What a memorable afternoon at West Gym,” said Carleton head coach Ryan Kershaw. “To win a conference championship on our home floor in front of so many amazing Carleton fans and supporters is something that every person in our program will look back on fondly for quite some time. Jeremy was an absolute stud again today and brought his best when we needed it the most.
“I cannot say enough about the toughness and fight that Luke Harris, Matt Banovetz, Spencer Goetz, and the rest of the team showed from the opening tip to the final buzzer. This is a special group of players and people, and I am so happy that we are able to share this conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance together.”
Beckler’s 35 points featured 11-for-20 shooting from the field and an 11-of-13 performance on his free throws, adding seven boards and three assists. This was his sixth career game of 30 or more points and fifth this season.
Matt Banovetz ’24 surpassed 20 points for the fifth time this season, finishing with 22 tallies and a game-leading eight rebounds, as both he and Beckler had a pair of blocks. He was 6-of-8 from the field, including 3-for-3 from downtown.
Luke Harris ’25 had 19 points as the third Knight in double figures and chipped in with five boards and two assists. Spencer Goetz ’25 contributed a game-high six assists.
Carleton (24-3) energized the home crowd immediately with an opening-possession lob from Goetz to Beckler, who slammed it down to give the home team the early lead. The Knights would not trail in the contest.
Carleton led by as many as 12 in the first half and still held a 33-22 lead when Banovetz converted off an assist from Beckler at the 4:29 mark.
Saint John’s (17-10) responded with an 8-0 run and made it a one-possession game at 33-30 with 2:40 remaining before intermission. Beckler drained a 3-pointer to spark the Knights on a 7-0 spurt to end the half and carry a 40-30 lead into the locker room.
The margin stayed between six and nine points for the early stages of the second half, and the Knights seemingly put the game out of reach when Beckler hit a 3-pointer to give him 33 points in the game and his team a 74-56 lead with 5:41 to play.
Saint John’s, winners of the last three MIAC Playoffs, was not done, however. Helped by a couple Zach Longueville triples from well beyond the arc, the Johnnies went on a 14-2 run to cut the lead to just two possessions at 76-70 with 2:51 to go.
Carleton sealed the game at the free throw line, as Goetz, Banovetz, and Harris combined to go 10-for-14 at the stripe over the final 2:22.
Ryan Thissen led the way for the visitors, with 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Longueville and Kooper Vaughn each had 15 points, with the former matching Goetz with six assists.
The Knights shot 53.2 percent from the field (25-for-47), 54.5 percent from 3-point range (6-for-11), and 81.1 percent on free throws (30-for-37). Saint John’s went 46.2 percent (30-for-65) from the floor, 34.5 percent (10-for-29) from deep, and 66.7 percent (6-for-9) at the charity stripe.
This is the second time that the Knights have won the MIAC Playoffs, the first coming during the 2009-10 campaign.
Up Next for the Knights
With the win, Carleton claimed the MIAC’s automatic qualification to the NCAA Division III Tournament. This will be the Knights third all-time appearance in the national championship field (also 2006 and 2010). The full field of 64 teams will be announced via NCAA.com on Monday, Feb. 27 at 12:00 p.m. CT.
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