St. Peter, Minn. – In a back-and-forth contest between two of the four second place women’s basketball teams in the MIAC, the College of Saint Benedict was able to come away with a 68-66 victory over Gustavus on Saturday afternoon at Gus Young Court. After 13 lead changes through 39 minutes, Saint Ben’s took the advantage with :43 seconds remaining and would not give it up. With Gustavus in control of the ball on the final possession of the game, the Blazer defense clamped down, forcing Stephanie Comer (Sr., Minnetonka, Minn.) to try a step-back three-pointer that fell short at the buzzer.
Gustavus has now lost three of its last four games, dropping to 12-6 overall and 11-4 in the MIAC. With the win, Saint Benedict extends its winning-streak to six games and is now 14-4 overall and 12-3 in the MIAC.
“We did a great job battling back and it made for a great basketball game,” said head coach Laurie Kelly, “but we didn’t win the one-on-one battles and that was the difference today.”
“Give credit to Saint Ben’s, they did a great job at the free throw line and stepped up when they needed to,” continued Kelly. “We had an opportunity to win the game at the end, yet didn’t get the shot we were looking for. We had chances down the stretch to put the game away as well and against good teams, you can’t miss out on those opportunities and expect to win games.”
With a 33-30 lead at the half, Saint Ben’s extended its advantage to nine points (41-32) by the 15:46 mark on a layup by Mattie Lueck. Gustavus clawed its way back to within four (44-40) two minutes later, but the Blazers went back up by eight (50-42) with 10:14 on the clock.
A pair of free throws by Julia Dysthe (Jr., White Bear Lake, Minn.) sparked what was a 10-0 run that saw Gustavus take a 52-50 lead with 6:31 remaining. Dysthe scored six points inside the run.
The two teams went back-and-forth over the next four minutes. After a pair of free throws by Lueck tied the game at 60-60 at the 3:28 mark, Gustavus scored four unanswered points to grab a 64-60 lead with 2:02 left.
Free throws helped the Blazers work their way back into the game. After five straight free tosses on three consecutive possessions, Gustavus’ lead was cut to 66-65 with :59 seconds to go. Saint Ben’s forced a Gustavus turnover on an inbounds play with :57 seconds left and took control of the ball with a chance to take its first lead in four minutes. Brianna Barrett knocked down a well-defended jumper in the lane to put the Blazers on top 67-66, a lead they would hold on to for the remaining ticks of the clock.
After a Dysthe layup on the following possession rattled out of the cylinder, Lueck brought the score to a final on a free throw with :17 seconds remaining.
Four Gustavus players finished in double-figures on the afternoon. Kelsey Florian (Sr., Roseville, Minn.) scored a team-high 14 points after going 4-for-9 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. Dysthe finished with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, while Lindsey Johnson (Fy., Edina, Minn.) broke out with 12 points of her own to lead the Gustie bench. Johnson went 4-for-6 from the floor and 4-for-5 at the free throw line. Abby Rothenbuehler (Sr., North Mankato, Minn.) rounded out the group with 10 points (4-10), six rebounds, and three blocks.
The failure to win one-on-one battles that Kelly alluded to earlier was expressed in the number of assists recorded by Saint Benedict. The Blazers tallied just four assists all afternoon, turning the ball over 20 times, but outrebounding the Gusties 32-27.
Bench scoring was not a factor for the Blazers, as the starting five accounted for 67 of the team’s 68 points. Whitney Canton led all scorers with 17 points, going 5-of-13 from the field and 5-for-5 at the free throw line. Brianna Barrett finished next in line with 14 points, while Mattie Lueck added 13. Hannah Hylla and Morgan Dale rounded out Saint Ben’s top scorers with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Blazers missed just two free throws in the game, finishing 19-for-21 from the charity stripe. Saint Ben’s outshot Gustavus 47.9-to-42.1-percent in the contest. The Gusties went 7-for-17 from three-point range, while at the same time holding one the best three-point shooting teams in the MIAC to just a 3-for-7 afternoon.
“We know we can play and compete with the best teams in this league, but what it really comes down to is making plays down the stretch. Although we didn’t do that today, we look forward to an off day on Monday and getting back to work against another top club in the league in Saint Mary’s on Wednesday,” Kelly concluded.
The Gustavus women’s basketball team will face the Cardinals on Wednesday, Jan. 30 in the final game of the month. The Gusties will travel to Winona, Minn. for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.