St. Peter, Minn. – Playing at Gus Young Court for the first and only time in the 2012 calendar year on Monday night, the Gustavus women’s basketball was able to grind out a 60-57 victory over St. Olaf College to earn its third straight MIAC win. Although Gustavus had a 10 point lead with seven minutes left play, the Oles were able to cut the deficit to one at 58-57 with :08 seconds on the clock. Thanks to clutch free throw shooting down the stretch by Karina Schroeder (Lake Crystal, Minn.) and Julia Dysthe (White Bear Lake, Minn.), the Gusties were able to hang on for the three point victory in their home debut.
Gustavus improves to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the MIAC with the victory, while St. Olaf is now 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the MIAC.
“It was an exciting game all the way down to the final buzzer,” said Head Coach Laurie Kelly. “If you want to make a run for a league title, you can’t afford to drop any games at home. We battled from start to finish and it was fun to come away with a win a St. Olaf team whose record is not indicative of how good they are.”
Sticking to their recent trend, the Gusties got off to a slow start. The Black and Gold managed only nine points in the opening eight minutes of the game and faced a 19-9 deficit following a jumper by Erin Haglund. After Mackenzie Wolter put the Oles up 22-14 with 10:10 left in the first half on a three-pointer, Gustavus responded with a 13-2 scoring run that saw them on top 27-24 with 6:38 on the clock.
Although St. Olaf would tie the game on two occasions in the final six minutes of the half, Gustavus would not allow the Oles to take back the lead for the remainder of the half. A late free throw by Lauren Gutierrez brought the half’s scoring to a close with Gustavus on top 33-31.
“We’ve struggled coming out of the gate and it was good to see us battle back early tonight,” said Kelly about her squad’s first half performance. “We handled their zone well and limited turnovers. We had been struggling with that as of late, so improvement in that area is great to see.”
Gustavus turned in its best ball-control showing of the season tonight, turning the ball over four times in the first half and seven times in the second. The Gusties won the turnover battle for the second time this year, forcing a total of 17 St. Olaf turnovers on the defensive end.
Abby Rothenbuehler (North Mankato, Minn.) led the Gusties in scoring in the opening half with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 shooting from three-point range. Gustavus shot 40-percent as a team in the first half compared to St. Olaf who shot 37.5-percent.
Despite its shooting struggles that featured a 29.6-percent team performance from the floor in the second half, the Gustavus defense did not allow St. Olaf many good looks, holding the Oles to a 27.6-percent shooting performance in the frame.
“We had good offensive looks in the second half but failed to finish,” commented Kelly. “We lost the battle on the glass and allowed far to many offensive boards – that’s what St. Olaf is good at and that’s what kept them in the game.”
St. Olaf outrebounded Gustavus 25-18 in the second half and 46-35 in the game. The Oles totaled 21 offensive boards compared to Gustavus’ 11.
Gustavus held on to the lead for the opening five minutes of the second half before Nikki Forgner put St. Olaf back on top 37-36 with a layup at the 15:14 mark. The Gusties responded with its most important stretch of basketball of the night, going on a 10-0 run to take a ten point lead (49-39) with 8:34 remaining. Kelsey Florian (Roseville, Minn.) scored the final five points of the run on a layup and a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions.
From there, the Oles would chip away at the deficit over the next five minutes, cutting it to three (54-51) with 3:05 to play. After forcing an Ole turnover at 2:16, the Gusties capitalized with points on three of its last four possessions of the game. A jumper by Florian put Gustavus on top 56-51 with 1:55 remaining, a pair of three throws by Karina Schroeder gave Gustavus a 58-53 lead with 1:01 on the clock, and clutch free throws by Julia Dysthe with :07 seconds remaining brought the score to a final at 60-57. St. Olaf had a look at a game-tying three-pointer on the final possession, but Kim Cerjan’s runner rattled off the iron and fell safely to the ground.
“Our seniors and upperclassmen were huge down the stretch,” Kelly said. “Out of the timeout we knew that we wanted the ball to be in Julia’s hands and she did her job – that was clutch.”
The Gusties benefited from their most balanced scoring attack of the season on Monday night, finishing with four players in double-figures. Abby Rothenbuehler was Gustavus’ leading scorer for the third straight game after dropping 16 points. She went 7-for-11 from the field and 2-for-3 from behind the arc. Rothenbuehler filled out the scoresheet with eight rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes of action.
“She’s a gamer, and when the going gets tough, she gets going,” said coach Kelly about her senior forward. “Abby wants to make the big play, hit the big shot, and come up with the big rebound. She has stepped up as a leader and has taken it upon herself to be our energy on the court. Tonight we saw that she has the telent to beat the zone because of her ability on the blocks and outside on the perimeter.”
Schroeder finished next in line with 13 points, her best scoring output of the season, and seven rebounds. She went 2-for-6 from the floor and was a perfect 9-for-9 at the charity stripe. Dysthe scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting and Florian added 11 after going 3-for-10.
Gustavus did its damage from the free throw line, going 17-for-21 (81%) in the game. The Gusties were also 18-for-52 (34.6%) from the field and 7-for-17 (41.2%) from beyond the arc.
The Gustie defense held St. Olaf’s leading scorer, Kim Cerjan, in check despite the fact that she scored a team-high 16 points. Cerjan was just 4-for-19 from the field and 3-for-13 from three. Nikki Fronger finished second in line with 15 points after going 6-for-10 from the floor.
As a team, St. Olaf shot 32.8-percent (20-61) from the field, 27.3-percent (6-22) from three, and 73.3-percent (11-15) at the line.
Coach Kelly said that, first and foremost, her team needs Gatorade, ice, and a good night’s sleep following tonight’s win. “We are going to enjoy the win tonight and its right back to work tomorrow preparing for Bethel.”
Gustavus will travel to Arden Hills, Minn. on Wednesday for its first of two MIAC road tests to close out the opening portion of the season. The Gusties will take on Bethel at 7:30 p.m.