A key factor to the recent success of the Gustavus women’s basketball team has been the play of junior guard Colleen Ruane – and Wednesday night in St. Peter, Minn. was no different. Ruane led the Gusties to a 60-58 victory over St. Olaf by scoring 15 second half points on the way to a career-high 22-point night. Gustavus extends its winning-streak to five games with the victory, improving to 10-7 overall and 9-5 in the MIAC, while St. Olaf falls to 9-8 overall and 6-8 in the MIAC.
“Early on she started out slowly offensively, but she has always been a really tough player to keep off the court. She does so many great things defensively, she runs our offense, and she is the one we count on to slow and settle us down,” said Head Coach Mickey Haller on the play of Ruane. “Tonight she was on fire with her shooting, and that is something she has really worked hard on improving. More than anything though, it is the confidence in her shot that she has made the biggest improvement.”
Ruane was 5-for-7 from the field, 3-for-3 from three point range, and 2-for-2 at the charity stripe in the second half. She would finished the game 6-for-11 from the field, 4-for-5 from three, and 6-for-6 at the line. Ruane is averaging 14 points per game inside Gustavus’ win-streak.
After trading leads within the first three minutes of the game, the Oles used a 9-0 run to take a 14-7 lead by the 12:45 mark. Molly Mathiowetz broke the drought by scoring on three straight possessions to cut the lead to 16-13 at 10:28. Mathiowetz led all scorers in the opening half with 12 points, going 5-for-5 from the field and 2-for-3 at the free-throw line.
“We didn’t do a very good job of getting Molly the ball early, but she has certainly been a spark for us offensively and we need to get the ball in her hands,” commented Haller on Mathiowetz’s first half.
The Oles would lead by five points (25-20) with just under six minutes to play in the half. Gustavus came back with yet another strong first half finish, using a 6-0 run to take a 26-25 lead with 3:08 left. The two squads traded buckets for the remainder of the half, heading into the locker rooms with the score tied at 32-32.
Coach Haller commented on the strong first half finish stating, “I don’t like going into the half too far ahead or too far behind, but what we have learned with this young team is that we can be down points in the first half, but we don’t falter and we keep chipping away. In the last few games, we have had a great run in the last five minutes of the half, which the team has been able to carry over into the second half.
Gustavus was 11-for-26 from the field in the first half, while St. Olaf was 12-for-21. Leading the Oles was Kirstee Rotty with eight points on 4-for-8 shooting.
With the score tied 37-37 at the 17:16 point of the second half, St. Olaf’s Sam Zopfi caught fire from behind the arc, draining a pair of threes on two straight possessions to take a 43-37 lead. The Gusties cut the lead to one (43-42) on three pointer by Ruane and a jumper by Geske, but the Oles responded with a 6-0 run to open up their largest lead of the game at 49-42 with 10:48 to play.
The Ruane show began on the following Gustavus possession, as she scored nine points within an 11-0 run that put the Gusties on top for the first time in the half at 51-49. The jumper by Ruane capping off the run at the 7:59 mark would also prove to be the last lead change of the contest.
“It is important for Colleen to take those shots because a lot of times what will happen is that her defender will have the ability to sag off and help out on our posts. Tonight she shot with confidence and it was key down the stretch,” said Haller.
The Oles threatened late on several occasions, cutting the lead to 55-54 with less than three minutes to play. Ruane came up big again with a three pointer at the 2:07 mark with time running out on the shot clock, putting Gustavus back up 58-54. Coach Haller felt that the possession of Ruane’s late three was the best of the night. “Having the confidence in your teammates to make the one extra pass and nail the shot is like a slam dunk for us,” said Haller.
Following a coast-to-coast layup by Kirstee Rotty, a pair of free throws by Mathiowetz with :46 seconds on the clock extended the Gustavus lead back to four points at 60-56. St. Olaf’s Mackenzie Wolter answered with a pair of free tosses of her own to make it a two point game at 60-58. The Oles would get the ball back following a Gustavus shot clock violation with :08 seconds on the clock. Gustavus elected to foul Wolter near the half court line, giving the Oles a side out of bounds with :03 seconds remaining. The Oles tried for the lob inside to Elise Raney on the throw-in, but the ball was sent too far to the far sideline, forcing Raney to chase it down to throw up a turn-around prayer from the corner. The ball came down into the hands of Geske out of bounds as time expired. The officials would add a final .003 seconds on the clock, but it would not matter as St. Olaf couldn’t get the game-tying shot off the inbounds pass.
The Gusties went just 7-for-26 from the field in the second half, while St. Olaf was10-for-29.
Gustavus would shoot 34.6-percent (18-52) from the field, 36.4-percent (4-11) from behind the arc, and a hot 90.9-percent (20-22) from the stripe. “20-for-22 from the free throw line is awesome, that’s something that has been a big focus in practice and in games late in the year,” commented Haller on Gustavus’ free throw shooting performance.
Mathiowetz would finish the game with 16 points, while Geske also scored in double-digits with 11 points, going 7-for-7 from the line. Mathiowetz has now scored in double-figures in her last nine games.
St. Olaf shot 44.0-percent (22-50) from the field, 31.3-percent (5-16) from three point range, and 69.2-percent (9-13) from the line. The Oles finished with three players in double-figures with Sam Zopfi leading the way with 14 points, and Kirstee Rotty and Elise Raney each scoring 10. The Oles struggled in the turnover department, recording 28 give-aways to Gustavus’ 17.
The Gustavus women’s basketball team will next make the four and a half hour trip to the Red River Valley to take on the second place Cobbers, who enter the game with a MIAC record of 11-3.
“Every game against Concordia boils down to about two or three points, its always a battle, but we like playing them,” said Haller about the matchup with Concordia. “It is always a very aggressive, fast-paced, fun game to play. It’s a long trip but we are in a place right now where we just need to take care of ourselves, go up there, play hard and get a little bit better, which I think we have done as of late.”
Tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m. in the Memorial Auditorium located on the campus of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.