The Gustavus women’s basketball team was able to weather a pair of strong second half surges by the Cardinals and hold on late for a 77-70 victory over Saint Mary’s in the 2010-11 regular season finale Saturday afternoon in St. Peter, Minn. Four Gusties scored in double figures, as Molly Geske led the way 22 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Jess Miller scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Cardinals.
Gustavus finishes the season with an overall record of 16-9 and a MIAC record of 15-7. The Gusties won 11 of its last 13 games to close the season. Saint Mary’s concludes the year with an overall record of 11-14 and a MIAC record of 9-13.
“Overall, we played pretty good. They made a good run on us, and Saint Mary’s is not a team you can just overlook, so it was nice to go out with a win against them,” said Head Coach Mickey Haller.
Gustavus would lead by nine points up 18-9 by the 9:43 mark of the first half. The Cardinals cut the lead to four (20-16) in the next four minutes, yet could not make up the difference, as Gustavus scored on the following possession both occasions. Gustavus took an 11-point lead at the 4:22 (31-20) and 1:35 (33-22) marks in the remaining five minutes of the half. Steph Comer gave the Gusties a 34-24 edge heading into the locker rooms after hitting a free throw on their final possession of the half.
Abby Rothenbuehler went to work in the first half, scoring 10 points and going 3-for-4 from the floor to lead the Gusties. Cardinal Jess Miller led all scorers in the half with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting. The Gusties shot 48.1-percent in the half, while Saint Mary’s shot 44-percent.
“Abby looked great in the paint today. It is really fortunate that we have a threat like her and Molly to go on the blocks,” commented Haller on the play of Rothenbuehler in the first half. “As of late, Abby has done a good job making smart decisions with the basketball, either looking to score or kicking it out for a better shot from one of her teammates.”
The second half was an up and down battle for both teams, as each squad made significant scoring runs in the frame. A layup by Molly Mathiowetz less than two minutes into the half sparked an 11-2 Gustavus run in which the Gusties were 3-for-3 from three point range. Molly Geske hit back-to-back triples to cap the run and give Gustavus a 47-29 edge with 15:52 left to play. Geske would finish the half 6-for-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from three point range to lead all scorers with 18 points.
The Cardinals chipped away at the lead in the next five minutes, using an 18-2 run to cut the Gustavus lead to four points at 51-47 by the 11:15 mark. A Geske three pointer less than a minute later stopped the bleeding and put Gustavus back up 54-47 at the halfway point of the half.
The Gusties took back control and would lead by 14 points (69-55) on a layup by Kelsey Florian with 6:06 left in the game. Saint Mary’s would not go down without a fight however, using a 13-3 run to come within four points at the 1:29 point. The Gustie defense was able to step up in the final minute, not allowing Saint Mary’s to come within four points of the lead. Gustavus hit five of its last six free throws to seal the victory.
Miller led the Cardinals in scoring with 13 points in the second half, as they shot 41.2-percent from the field. Gustavus shot 37.9-percent from the field, and a hot 75-percent from behind the arc.
Along with Geske in double-figures on the day was Molly Mathiowetz with 13 points, Rothernbuehler with 12, and Florian with 10. Gustavus was 24-for-56 (42.9%) from the field, 7-for-12 (58.3%) from three point land, and 22-for-30 (73.3%) at the free throw line.
Cardinals Courtney Euerle and Cherie Kulig also scored in double digits with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Saint Mary’s finished the game 25-for-59 (42.4%) from the field, 5-for-17 (29.4%) from three, and 15-for-24 (62.5%) at the line.
The Gustavus women’s basketball team finishes the season in fourth place in the conference and will host Bethel in the first round of the MIAC Playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in St. Peter, Minn.
“I think that we have a great shot to get all the way to the championship game on Saturday. We are playing well right now, winning 11 of your last 13 games is just how you want to finish the season,” stated Haller about upcoming post-season. “Tuesday will be really fun, it is going to be great to have Bethel here on our court.”