The four and a half hour bus ride from the Red River Valley back to the Valley of the Green Giant has generally been a forgettable one for the Gustavus women’s basketball team the past eight seasons, but Saturday’s ride home will surely be a different story… at least for one person on the bus. With a 59-53 victory over Concordia, Head Coach Mickey Haller achieved a new milestone in her brilliant coaching tenure at Gustavus, earning the 200th win of her career.
When asked about winning her 200th game, Haller replied, “We haven’t really even talked about it, but it feels really good. It was a great way and a great atmosphere to get this particular achievement. I’m not going to lie, it was a great ride home.”
The Gusties currently the hottest team in the MIAC with a six-game winning-streak under their belt. Gustavus improves to 11-7 overall and 10-5 in the MIAC with the victory, while the Cobbers fall to 13-5 overall and 11-4 in the MIAC.
Gustavus was led in scoring by Molly Geske and Abbey RothenBuehler. Geske scored 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting, and Rothenbuehler scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while bringing down a game-high nine rebounds. The Gusties turned in one of their best ball-control performances of the season, winning the turnover battle 9-to-13 and controlling the pace of play for the majority of the contest.
“One of our goals going into this game was to slow things down on both ends of the court and to play a little more half court offense and defense,” said Haller. “There were times when we did run with it, but for the most part we did a nice job of setting the pace and taking care of the ball.”
Following a layup by Maggie Bauernfeind that put the Cobbers up 4-1 within the first three minutes of play, Gustavus responded with a 11-0 run to take a 12-4 by the 12:32 mark of the first half. The Cobbers chipped away to tie the game at 16-16 with seven minutes left, but the Gustie defense allowed just one point within an over five-minute time-span to open up a 26-17 lead with 1:32 to go. Erica Nord would cut the deficit to seven on a pair of free throws with :14 seconds remaining, as Gustavus would take a 28-21 lead into the break.
After a dry scoring night on Wednesday against St. Olaf, the Gustavus bench recorded 16 points in the first half against Concordia. Steph Comer (2-3) and Rothenbuehler (3-5) led the Gusties with six points each, going a combined 5-for-8 from the field. Comer’s two field goals both came on three pointers.
“Our bench played excellent today. We went deep and played a little bit more even today. Eli, Steph, Liz, and Abby all stepped in and played very well,” commented Haller on the play of the Gustavus bench.
The Gusties built a double-digit lead on four separate occasions in the opening seven minutes of the second half. The largest lead of the afternoon came on a free throw by Ava Perry that put Gustavus up 41-30 at the 13:30 mark. The Cobbers would not go down quietly, making a 16-5 run in just over five minutes to tie the game at 46-46 (8:03).
Following a free throw by Bauernfeind with 5:18 to play that put the Cobbers up 52-50, the Gustie defense would bare down once again, allowing just one point for the remainder of the game. Gustavus outscored Concordia 9-1 from the point of Bauernfeind’s free throw on to the final buzzer. Colleen Ruane continued her strong play down the stretch, scoring five of Gustavus’ last nine points.
“They tied the game couple of times before going ahead late, and at that point we knew that it had to get done on defense. Defense definitely won the game,” said Haller. “We have learned that when we are in that situation, down points late in the game, that we don’t have to run down and score as fast as we can. We need to settle down, play some defense, get a stop, take the ball down to the other end and run a good offense.”
Molly Geske led the Gusties in the second half, scoring eight points and going 3-for-6 from the floor and 2-for-4 from three point range.
The Gusties shot 37.0-percent from the field (20-54), 35.7-percent (5-14) from behind the arc, and 73.7-percent (14-19) at the line in the game. The Cobbers shot 36.0-percent (18-50) from the field, 47.1-percent (8-17) from three, and 60.0-percent (9-15) at the line.
The Cobbers had two players score in double-figures in Bauernfeind and Erica Nord with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Mickey Haller’s 200th victory comes nearly eight years to the date of her last win in Moorhead on Jan. 25, 2003, when the Gusties defeated the Cobbers 71-59. Haller currently has a career record of 200-84 and a winning percentage of .704.
The Gustavus women’s basketball team will look to stay hot on the road when it travels to St. Paul to take on Macalester on Monday, Jan. 31. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
“We have had some games at Macalester that our players can still remember not playing well, so I they will be ready to play. I feel like this team will be up for Macalester because they can see how much better we are becoming, and the game will be theirs to make a statement, “ stated Haller on her squad’s state heading into Monday’s game with the Scots.