The Gustavus women’s basketball team came up short in a 73-64 loss to ninth-ranked Simpson College despite composing a valiant second-half rally in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night in Indianola, Iowa. After facing a 17-point halftime deficit, the Golden Gusties fought back to within two points with 8:17 left after Bri Radtke hit a three-point shot from the left corner, but were unable complete the comeback. Gustavus outrebounded the Storm 48-38, but committed 27 turnovers compared to 17 for Simpson. The Gusties ended the season at 18-10, while Simpson improved to 26-2.
Simpson jumped out to a 4-0 lead in front of the home crowd before Jess Vadnais hit a deep three-point basket from the left wing and pull-up jumper in the middle of the lane to give the Gusties their only lead of the game at 5-4. The Storm used a full-court pressure and a 2-3 match-up zone defense to force the Gustavus offense to commit nine turnovers during a 21-5 run as Simpson built a 25-10 lead. Simpson’s Maria Oliver was fouled at the end of the half and hit a pair of free-throws to extend the lead to 34-17. Gustavus shot 23.3 percent from the floor on 7-of-30 shooting and turned the ball over 15 times. The 17 first-half points was the lowest scoring output since the Gusties scored 12 points in the first half against Macalester on November 29, 2006.
A Katelyn Whiton lay-up gave Simpson a 19-point lead at 38-19 with 18:39 remaining in the contest. Gustavus began to crawl back into the game with increased defensive pressure and aggressiveness on offense as the Gusties put together a 15-2 run to cut the deficit to 40-36 near the midway point of the second half. The Storm quickly countered with six points to build their lead back to 46-37 as Whiton contributed four of the six points.
Gustavus was not finished, though, as Katie Layman hit two shots that triggered a 9-2 run capped off by Radtke’s three-point shot as the Gusties closed the gap to two points at 48-46 with 8:17 left in the game. Simpson turned up its full-court pressure to force four Gustie turnovers as the Storm went on a three-minute 13-2 run to put the game out of reach. Vadnais cut the deficit to nine points on a three-point shot and 13 seconds left, but it was too late as Simpson pulled out a 73-64 victory.
Jess Vadnais closed out her career with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting and recorded five steals. Vadnais ends her career as the most prolific scorer in Gustavus basketball history (male or female) at 1,778 points, surpassing current men’s basketball head coach Mark Hanson’s mark of 1,774 set in 1983. Three Gusties scored 11 points each, including Katie Layman, Emily Nelson, and Bri Radtke, who posted the second Gustavus double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Katelyn Whiton, the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year, paced Simpson with 23 points and six rebounds in the victory. Maria Oliver came off of the bench to score 13 points, while Whitney Franker added 10 points.
The Storm will face UW-Eau Claire in the NCAA Second Round at 7 p.m. on Saturday night in Indianola, Iowa.