STORM LAKE - Matt Cleveland turned in his fourth double-double of the season, scoring a team-high 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, including four free-throws and two key rebounds during the game's final 16 seconds, to help lift the Buena Vista men's basketball team to a thrilling 79-74 victory against visiting Cornell College (16-6, 9-4 IIAC) on Saturday evening.
Cleveland finished the contest shooting 5-of-10 from the field, including 8-of-9 at the charity stripe. After scoring a career-high 27 points on Wednesday night, fellow senior Travis Person followed with 17 in this contest, on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor. A big lift came from junior Steve Gute, who came off the bench to turn in a career-high 11 points, on 5-of-6 shooting.
As a team, the Beavers shot 51.9 percent from the field, while also holding the edge on the boards, out-rebounding the Rams, 41-28.
It was a see-saw battle in the early going, with neither team leading by more than four until BVU broke an 18-18 tie by going on a 14-1 run, capped by a three-pointer from Jeff Janssen with just under six minutes left in the first half. The team still led by 10 following a pair of Person free-throws with 1:13 remaining before the Rams scored the final four points of the half to cut BVU's lead down to 43-37 at the break.
Back-to-back buckets from Gute to start the second half would put the Beavers back up by double-figures (10) before building its largest lead of 14, four minutes later.
The Rams then used a 14-5 run to get back to within five (65-60) at the 6:28 mark. After Cleveland put the Beavers back up nine with 3:27 left in regulation, Cornell chipped away at the lead and got as close as 75-72 with 1:11 left before Cleveland stepped up during the game's final minute.
The win marks the eighth time under Van Haaften that the Beavers have won at least 20 games in a single season. It's the first time BVU has gone back-to-back seasons with 20 or more wins since the program reached the mark six straight seasons, beginning in 1999-00.
In addition, Van Haaften notched his 275th career victory, while improving to 150-19 all-time inside of Siebens Fieldhouse.
The Beavers are now 20-2 overall (12-1 IIAC) and will have a chance to clinch its second straight Iowa Conference title on Wednesday night with a win at home over the University of Dubuque, coupled with a Cornell win over Loras in Mt. Vernon. Tip-off between the Beavers and Spartans is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.