The Gustavus women’s basketball team overcame a one-point halftime deficit and broke the game wide open in the second half, downing Bethel University, 78-63, on Saturday afternoon in a MIAC game at Gus Young Court in St. Peter. The Gusties, who improve to 7-3 overall, 5-2 in the MIAC, had three players in double figures led by Jess Vadnais with 17. Gustavus will host St. Olaf on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
The Gusties raced out to an early 13-4 lead in the first half on the strength of a pair of layups by sophomore guard Jess Vadnais (Hudson, Wis.). A three-point play with 9:38 remaining in the first half pushed the Gustie lead to ten points at 18-8, but the Royals would charge back, outscoring Gustavus 23-12 down the stretch to take a 31-30 lead at intermission. Bethel finished the half on a 7-0 run, hitting on 44.8 percent (13-29) of their shots in the first half, just below their season average of 45 percent.
Gustavus had an opportunity to tie or take the lead at the half, but a pair of free throw attempts by Kenzie Consoer with no time left on the clock fell by the wayside. The Gusties were held to 36.4 percent (12-33) in the first half.
The teams played somewhat evenly to start the second half, but a foul by JoLynn Thielke, Bethel’s leading scorer on the season, sent her to the bench with three fouls with 13:56 remaining in the game. The Gusties took advantage of Thielke’s absence, outscoring the Royals 26-10 over the next 8:42 to lead by 19 points at 66-47 with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
Bethel went on a 7-0 run over the next two minutes to cut the Gustavus lead to 12 points, but a three-pointer by Vadnais brought an end to the run and any real hope of a Bethel comeback. Two free throws each by Consoer and Michelle Linbo, coupled with another three-pointer by Vadnais extended the lead to a game-high 20 points (76-56) with 1:36 to go in the game. The Royals scored seven of the game’s last nine points to set the final margin at 78-63.
Gustavus shot 60 percent (15-25) from the field in the second half, while holding Bethel to 36 percent (9-25). In addition to Vadnais’ 17 points, the Gusties also picked up strong games offensively from junior Bri Monahan and first-year Emily Nelson, who each chipped in with 10 points. Sophomore Vicky Peterson added nine points and five rebounds in 23 minutes of play off the bench.
Bethel was led by Sarah Cottner’s 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
The Gusties (7-3, 5-2 MIAC) will host St. Olaf, while the Royals (7-3, 3-3 MIAC) will travel to St. Thomas. in MIAC games on Wednesday.