By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Bethany Lutheran had 21 turnovers in an exhibition loss at Minnesota State last week, but that was easy to explain, playing against a team that’s more athletic, quicker and stronger.
But on Thursday, it the nonconference season-opener against St. Olaf, 20 turnovers was much harder to take.
“We just weren’t strong with the ball,” senior Derek Peterson said. “We work in practice taking care of the ball, but that’s been our Achilles’ heel so far. St. Olaf had nice pressure, but we blame ourselves for the turnovers.”
The Vikings lost to St. Olaf 74-66 in the nonconference season-opener Thursday at the Bethany Sports & Fitness Center. The turnovers were a problem, as was the free-throw shooting, making only 18 of 28.
Coach Dave Balza was also unhappy with the defense over the final seven minutes as St. Olaf made three 3-pointers and six free throws.
“We just didn’t guard anybody,” Balza said. “When they missed, we allowed them to get the rebound. We’re a veteran team that should be able to guard someone.”
The Vikings were relentless on the offensive boards in the first half, grabbing 11 to highlight a 23-12 rebounding advantage, but they also struggled with the Oles’ man-to-man, trapping pressure, committing six turnovers.
Still, an 11-4 run, with nine by Alex Weldon, pushed the Vikings ahead 39-34 at the break.
“We left way too many points out there on free throws,” Peterson said. “We practice those all the time so I don’t know if it was concentration or what? You have to knock those down on your homecourt.”
In the second half, Bethany managed only one field goal in the first nine minutes, committing nine turnovers, as the Oles ran off an 11-1 run to lead 52-45. But Garet Tucker, the 6-foot-8 transfer from Dickinson (N.D.) Community College, scored eight straight to get the Vikings back in the game.
As the turnovers and missed free throws continued, the Vikings started to fall behind, allowing St. Olaf to finish the final six minutes on a 19-8 run.
“I thought Tucker showed some things, which is good for his first Division III game,” Balza said. Derek Peterson picked up right where he left off, and we had some young guys that did some good things.
“We just have to get better. We’re better than we were a year ago, but we weren’t good enough to get a W.”
Tucker finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Gavin Krohler had 12 points and seven boards. Peterson and Weldon scored 11.
Bethany had a 45-33 rebounding advantage with 19 offensive rebounds. The Vikings shot 35.6 percent, making only 5 of 21 from 3-point range.
“It was a learning opportunity,” Peterson said. “We want to get the wins at home so we have to get to the film room and shore up some things defensively.”
Bethany continues nonconference games against the MIAC at 3 p.m. Saturday at Gustavus Adolphus.