The Gustavus women’s basketball team played one its best games of the season, yet came up short in a 66-61 loss to St. Thomas on Saturday afternoon in St. Paul. After 15 lead changes, the Gusties brought the score to within one point (62-61) with less than a minute to play, yet the Tommies buried their final four free throw attempts to secure the victory an remain unbeaten in conference play. Gustavus falls to 4-4 in the MIAC and 5-6 overall, while St. Thomas improves to 7-0 in the MIAC and 8-2 overall.
Gustavus had two players in double-figures in Molly Geske and Kesley Florian. Geske finished with 16 points, going 6-for-12 from the field, while Florian had 13 points on 3-of-8 shooting. Florian was also a perfect 6-for-6 at the line.
“Playing without Molly Mathiowetz today gave a lot of different players an opportunity to step up and play, and they did that,” said Head Coach Mickey Haller. “We saw a lot of positives in today’s game and it was a good learning experience for our team.”
St. Thomas’ Ali Johnson led all scorers with 22 points as she was on fire throughout the game. Johnson went 7-for-10 from the floor, 6-for-8 from three point range, and 2-for-2 at the free throw line. Teammate Rachel Booth recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The two evenly matched teams played back-and-forth basketball at the start. Gustavus built a 11-6 lead, its largest of the game, on a layup by Abby Rothenbuehler at the 16:24 mark. Rothenbuehler led the Gusties with 11 boards in the game. St. Thomas responded with an 8-0 run to take a 14-11 lead with 11 minutes remaining. After four lead changes, the Tommies closed the half with an 11-2 run, taking a 30-21 lead into the break.
Gustavus was a cold 8-for-30 from the field in the frame, while St. Thomas was 9-for-25. Geske led the Gusties with nine points, and Johnson led the Tommies with six.
The Gusties played much improved basketball at the start of the second half, battling back to tie the game at 37-37 on a three pointer by Colleen Ruane with 15:41 to play. Within a five-minute time-span, Gustavus built a 48-43 lead with just under ten minutes to play. They would hold the lead until the 3:45 mark when Ali Johnson scored on a layup, putting the Tommies up 58-57. St. Thomas would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game, as Gustavus went 1-for-5 from the field in the final three minutes.
16 of Johnson’s 22 points came in the second half, as she went 5-for-7 from the field and 4-for-6 from downtown. Colleen Ruane led Gustavus with nine points in the frame, going a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from three point range.
St. Thomas outshot the Gusties 36.4 (11-30) to 34.4-percent (13-31) in the game. The Gusties won the turnover battle 14-16, yet were outrebounded 42-38.
“Today was a big confidence booster. Although we didn’t come away with a win, we were in it until the end and it was one of our best performances,” commented Haller.
The Gustavus women’s basketball team will look to rebound after a 1-2 week at home against second place Saint Benedict on Wednesday night on Gus Young Court at 7:30 p.m.