ARDEN HILLS, Minn. — When the Saint Mary's and Bethel men's basketball teams met Wednesday at the Saint Mary's Gym, the Cardinals used a career performance from Nick Falls for the nine-point victory.
Saturday afternoon, the two teams were at it again — and again it was a career effort that sparked the Cardinals to the victory.
Zach Kjeseth scored a career-high 12 points — all in the first half — and the Cardinals scored the game's final 15 points in rallying for a 66-58 nonconference win over Bethel at BU's Robertson Center Gym.
With the win, the Cardinals (4-1, 1-0) extended their winning streak to four straight and will go for five in a row Monday when they travel to take on Augsburg. It would be their first five-game winning streak since 2010-11, when they won six straight during an 8-1 start to the season.
The Royals appeared to have the upper hand early, scoring 13 of the game's first 17 points to take a nine-point edge before the contest was even five minutes old. Led by Cave and Kjeseth, that nine-point lead did not last long. Kjeseth capped a 17-5 SMU run with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game, 21-18 with 7:44 to play.
Neither team would lead by more than three the rest of the half, with Kjeseth capping a career first half with a buzzer-beating layup to pull the Cardinals even, 33-33, heading into the locker room at the break.
Cave and Kjeseth combined for 24 of the Cardinals' 33 first-half points, while Raheem Anthony and Kareem Anthony-Bello finished with six and three points, respectively, as the quartet accounted for all of Saint Mary's first-half scoring.
As was the case in the first half, Bethel had the momentum early in the second 20-minute session, grabbing a seven-point, 50-43 lead with less than 11 minutes remaining in regulation.
From there, the Cardinals took over — in a big way.
The Cardinals trailed by seven twice in the game's final 20 minutes — including 58-51 with 6:29 to play in regulation. A pair of free throws and back-to-back 3-pointers from Anthony-Bello and Cave gave Saint Mary's its first lead of the half. Saint Mary's would add seven more unanswered points to cap its game-ending 14-0 run and seal its fourth straight win.
Cave led the Cardinals' offensive charge, scoring a game-high 24 points, while Anthony — who had just six points through the game's first 26 minutes — chipped in 15, and Kjeseth and Anthony-Bello added 12 and 11 points, respectively.