Ball control and solid free throw shooting were key in the Gustavus women’s basketball team’s 59-53 victory over Hamline on Wednesday night in St. Peter, Minn. The Gusties won the turnover battle 10-to-21 while shooting 86.2-percent (25-29) from the line in the game. Gustavus was led in scoring by Molly Geske who had 17 points, while Hamline’s Kara Poirier was on fire tonight, going 10-for-13 from the field and 6-for-8 from three point range for a game-high 26 points.
With the victory, Gustavus improves to 11-6 in the MIAC and 12-8 overall. Hamline falls to 7-10 in the MIAC and 8-12 overall.
“We have been shooting well from the free throw line all year, so anytime we get there it makes us pretty happy,” said Head Coach Mickey Haller. “Committing just 10 turnovers was huge because we have had a tendency to go down rush our offense and force some shots. Tonight we took some quick shots, but our players knew it and realized that they needed to settle down a bit and run our offense. That discipline played a key part in our lack of turnovers tonight.”
The two teams went back-and-forth for the opening eight minutes of the game. After Mary Wilkowski tied the game at 11-11 with 12:12 left, Gustavus would make a five-point run to bring the score to 16-11. The Gusties held the lead for the remainder of the half, going up by as many as nine points at the 5:34 (28-19) and 4:51 (30-21) marks. A pair of free throws by Kelsey Florian with :17 seconds remaining gave Gustavus a 36-30 lead at the break.
Hamline was 9-for-19 from the field in the opening frame, while Gustavus was 14-for-34. Wilkowski led all scorers in the first half, going 5-for-6 from the floor for 13 points. Molly Mathiowetz led the Gusties with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting. The Gusties took advantage of the Pipers’ mistakes in the half, scoring 12 points on turnovers compared to Hamline’s 2.
Kara Poirier was the story of the second half, as the sophomore guard scored 21 points, going 8-for-10 from the field with five three pointers. Poirier scored 10 of Hamline’s first 16 points, as Gustavus would lead by three points (49-46) with 12:12 left. The Pipers would cut the margin to three points on two occasions at the halfway point of the period, yet could not overcome the gap. A pair of free throws by Colleen Ruane sparked a 10-3 run that gave Gustavus a 65-55 lead with 4:27 remaining. The Gustie defense didn’t allow a field goal for over three minutes within the run. Down six points with 1:10 left to play, Hamline was forced to foul. Gustavus was up to the challenge, hitting 10 of its final 12 free tosses to ice the game.
Geske and Ruane both finished with double-digit points in the second half. Geske scored 12 points, going 3-for-5 from the field, and 6-for-6 at the line, and Ruane added 10 points, going 2-for-2 from the field and 7-for-8 at the line. Ruane would finish the game a perfect 4-for-4 from the field with 15 points. Hamline outshot Gustavus 51.4 to 42.9-percent in the second half.
Despite being out-rebounded in the game, Haller was enthused by her team’s tenacity in forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive glass. Gustavus recorded 11 steals and 15 offensive rebounds in the game.
“Eleven steals was big for us tonight. We are a team that tends to get more steals than others because of the way we play,” said Haller. “I realize that they out-rebounded us by one, but we had 15 offensive boards and that’s huge for any team.”
Molly Mathiowetz led the Gusties in rebounding, bringing down eight boards and scoring 14 points. With those eight rebounds, Mathiowetz becomes just the ninth player in the history of Gustavus women’s basketball to record over 500 career rebounds. She currently has 504 career boards and is just 23 points away from her 1000th point.
For the second time against Hamline this season, Gustavus turned in a balanced scoring performance. Geske, Ruane, and Mathiowetz led the way with a combined 31 points, Kelsey Florian and Ava Perry both scored nine, and Abby Rothenbuehler added in eight. The Gusties had six players score in double-figures in a 83-76 loss to the Pipers on Jan. 3.
“Tonight our offense really spread the ball around well, and we didn’t need to go to any one person to beat them. This type of balanced scoring attack, where we have a player like Colleen step in and get into the mix for example, is more of what I expect from this team because they realize that we have a lot players on the court that can contribute,” commented Haller.
Gustavus shot 41.9-percent (26-62) from the field, and 20-percent (2-10) from behind the arc in the game. Hamline shot 50-percent (27-54) from the field, 50-percent (7-14) from three, and 75-percent (12-16) at the line. Wilkowski had a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Stephanie Robinson also scored in double-figures with 10.
The Gustavus women’s basketball team will head back on the road to take on Carleton this Saturday, Feb. 5. The Knights are currently in 10th place in the MIAC with an overall record of 5-14 and a MIAC mark of 4-12.
“We have struggled on the road,” said Haller about Gustavus’ upcoming matchup. “That was a big win at Concordia, but we basically have not have not played that well on the road against teams that people expect us to beat. We need to go into Carleton with a little bit of an attitude. It is going to be important for us to get a little tougher as we move into the end of our season, and that needs to start on Saturday.”
The Gusties and Knights will tip-off at 1:00 p.m. on the campus of Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.