The Gustavus women’s basketball team jumped out to an early lead Saturday afternoon and never looked back en route to a 81-64 victory over Saint Benedict in St. Peter, Minn. The Gusties claimed their third consecutive conference win headed into the Christmas break and improve to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the MIAC, while the Blazers fall to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in league play.
Sixteen Gusties saw time on the floor with ten contributing points on the board.
“We rely on our experience so it was nice to get so many players on the floor and be successful against a high-caliber team,” head coach Mickey Haller said. “To come out with a 17-point win was outstanding for our players. They kept calling it ‘sweep week,’ so they were excited to complete the three-game sweep over the course of the week. And to do it at home was special since we’ve been on the road for six of eight games.”
Gustavus opened the game on an 11-0 run in the first five minutes before Brianna Barrett put in a jumper to put the Blazers on the board. The Gusties continued to increase their lead throughout the remainder of the first half and led 44-21 at the break. They completed 19-of-30 shots from the field in the first 20 minutes with 24 points coming from in the paint.
After the half, the two teams matched point-for-point throughout the first eight minutes and the Gusties held on to a 23-point lead (57-34) at the 12:13 mark. But that’s when Gustavus dialed up the pressure with the hot hands of Shelly Blaschko and Steph Comer. Comer sunk a three-pointer at the 11:13 mark followed by a pair of three’s and a layup from Blaschko to put the Gusties up 71-45 with just under eight minutes remaining.
“Shelly is a great three-point shooter and ball handler,” Haller acknowledged. “She does a lot in our dribble-drive offense and we know she can shoot, but a lot of her success came from the patience we had on offense today. Steph Comer also hit a few key three-pointers for us. Those are two kids that we like to see production from because we need everything we can get from behind the arc.”
Saint Ben’s slowly chipped away at the lead over the final eight minutes, but it was too little, too late as Gustavus cruised to the 17-point decision. The score was a true representation of how well each team shot from the floor. The Gusties out-shot the Blazers by only eight attempts (58-50), but converted 60.3-percent of those opportunities compared to a 38.0-percent rate by Saint Ben’s.
Molly Geske led the victors with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Blaschko and Abby Rothenbuehler also contributed double-digits with 10 and 11 points, respectively. Rothenbuehler hauled in a team-high five rebounds as well. Leading the way for Saint Ben’s was Brianna Barrett with a game-high 18 points.
“Abby (Rothenbuehler) can shoot the three as well, but we want her to be more of a post presence, so it was nice to see her get most of the points from down low,” Haller mentioned. “We need her down at the low post because she is such a good rebounder and that was proven today.”
The Gusties will now enjoy their Christmas break for the next three weeks and resume MIAC action on Monday, Jan. 2 against St. Olaf. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in St. Peter.