St. Peter, Minn – The women’s basketball team overcame a slow start and put forth one of its strongest defensive efforts of the season to win Saturday’s game against St. Olaf 58-46 on Gus Young Court. With the win, Gustavus improves to 10-8 overall and 7-8 in the MIAC, while St. Olaf falls to 11-7 overall and 9-6 in the MIAC.
“I thought it was a defensive grind for us, I don’t think that we played exceptionally on offense—statistically we didn’t shoot the ball very well. I think the success of the game came down to our defense and we were able to shut down some of their better scorers, particularly their inside play,” Head Coach Laurie Kelly said. “I just think this was a roll-up-your-sleeves, get dirty, and just grind out a win kind of game and we really needed that. I felt like we were in control of the game a majority of the time—we had a slow start but I feel like the last 30 minutes we were really in control of the game and I thought it was one of our best defensive games our team has had.”
After taking a 27-21 lead into the locker rooms, the Gusties used the second half to their advantage, widening their lead and shutting down the Oles’ offense. Gustavus led by double digits for most of the second half, and was able to increase its lead to 14 points three times throughout the second half—its largest lead of the day. Not only did the Gusties continue to score during the last 30 minutes, but the Black and Gold’s defense were able to shut down St. Olaf’s leading scorer, Kim Cerjan, who came into the game averaging 14.2 points. Cerjan finished with 11 points and was the only Ole to score in double figures in today’s contest.
The last 30 minutes of the game were a refreshing change for the Gusties, who started out the game with five turnovers in ten minutes. Turnovers plagued both teams early on in the first half, with neither team able to get on the scoreboard for the first three minutes. The Oles finally broke the scoring drought when Brittany Webber made a pair of free throws, putting the Oles up 2-0.
“I thought we were tight coming in. This was an important game and we know what we’re fighting for, but I thought we just kind of came out tight. Their zone really frustrated us early from our offensive positioning, we didn’t really move the ball very well, I thought we were forcing passes too early, so I thought it was our decision making that struggled,” Kelly said.
“We changed some offensive positioning- we went to a more spread offense which allowed a lot better decision making for us and allowed us better shot options which gave us better decision making on the offense. And we talked about calming down, getting the ball in, and we made a couple of shots and I think we were finally able to settle in to our game,” Kelly continued.
Lindsey Johnson (So., Edina, Minn.) was the Gusties’ leading scorer for the day, scoring 11 points. Johnson was 4-for-8 from the field, 1-for-1 from three-point range, and a perfect 2-for-2 at the line.
“I thought Blaschko had a really big game for us—she was big defensively, and hit a really big shot for us at the end of the game,” Kelly said.
Rachelle Blaschko (Sr., Henderson, Minn.) scored ten points, shooting 4-for-12 from the field, 1-for-7 from beyond the arc, and 1-for-2 at the line. Blaschko handed out a game-high 5 assists, and played a career-high 39 minutes.
“We got a big second half, I think down the stretch we managed the clock really well. We made free throws down the stretch, we waited until we got a shot, and I thought that it was one of the first times where I really felt like we were in control of the tempo of the game. I thought that was important, to not allow St. Olaf, with their big shooters on the floor to not have a chance to get back into it,” Kelly said.
Late in the second half, St. Olaf used free throws to try to claw back towards a win, but the Gusties held on, even increasing their lead to earn the win. A free throw shot made by Betsey Daly with 2:21 left to play cut the Gusties’ lead to six, but a jumper by Blaschko, killed the Oles’ momentum. Karina Schroeder (So., Lake Crystal, Minn.) made a layup before making four free throws to end the game with the Gusties on top by 12.
Schroeder finished the game with ten points, going a perfect 2-for-2 from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 at the line.
St. Olaf out-rebounded Gustavus 44-32, with Emily Wahlberg bringing down a game-high nine boards (seven offensive). Britta Rinke (Sr., Waconia, Minn.) was the leading rebounder for the Gusties, bringing down six boards (five defensive).
“They’re really good on the glass, I think that was an area that we knew we were going to have to focus on, but I think overall holding them to 46 points really took the pressure off our offense,” Kelly said.
Gustavus finished the game 19-for-53 (35.8%) from the field, 7-for-20 (35.0%) from three, and 13-for-16 (81.3%) at the line. St. Olaf went 16-for-55 (29.1%) from the field, 3-for-18 (16.7%) from three, and 11-for-16 (68.8%) at the line.
The Gusties will be back on the hardwood on Monday, Feb. 3rd when they head to St. Joseph to face Saint Ben’s, with the opening tip-off slated for 7:30 p.m.
“Obviously every game is really important, and this is a big one coming up with Saint Ben’s. We’re really on a roll where we’ve played better basketball—this is the time when you want to start peaking. I think that what we take away from this game is our defensive effort, we only scored 58 points, but we had a 12 point win, so I think that we learned today that even if you’re not shooting the ball well, you can still control a game based on what you do on the defensive end,” Kelly concluded.