Free Throws, Strong Finish Push Women’s Basketball To 64-57 Win Over Concordia

Posted on January 15th, 2015 by

Hannah Howard scored a game-high 19 points in Gustavus's 64-57 victory over Concordia on Wednesday night at Gus Young Court. Phot courtesy of CJ Siewert - Sport PiX.

St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus Adolphus women’s basketball team got back on track with a 64-57 victory over Concordia College on Wednesday night at Gus Young Court. In what was a grind-out, back-and-forth affair between two of the MIAC’s top teams, Gustavus was able to cash in at the free-throw line and use a strong finish to secure the win and improve to 11-3 overall and 5-2 in the MIAC. Concordia drops its second straight and is now 8-6 overall and 4-3 in the MIAC.

“Concordia is a quality team that is very well coached,” said Head Coach Laurie Kelly. “They are a blue collar team that is physical and works hard. Knowing that they would bring great effort and physicality we knew that we had to win the battle on the glass and play one of our best defensive games of the year. We struggled on defense Saturday because our offensive mistakes affected the rest of our play. Today was the opposite. Even if we missed a bunny or turned the ball over, we didn’t let it affect us on the other end of the court. That’s a great area of growth for us as a team.”

Trialing 10-9 with 12:43 left in the opening half, Gustavus went on a 12-2 scoring-run to grab a 21-12 lead by the 8:34 mark. Concordia battled back to come within one point (25-24) at the 3:15 mark, yet Gustavus pushed its lead to four up 33-29 at the break.

The Gusties shot 47.1-percent compared to Concordia’s 38.5-percent in the first half. Maddie Ehrich (Sr., Eden Prairie, Minn.) stood out for Gustavus in the first half with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting with one three-pointer.

Following a back-and-forth start to the second half, Concordia scored six straight points to take a 45-39 advantage. Although Olivia Johnson’s two free throws gave the Cobbers the six point edge (their largest lead of the half), it was Mikayla Forness’s jumper prior at the 12:30 mark that turned out to be significant. Significant because it was Concordia’s only field goal until the 2:07 mark when Emma Peterson hit a three to bring the score to 54-53 in favor of Gustavus.

From the moment the Gusties took the lead on a Lindsey Johnson (Jr., Edina, Minn.) turnaround jumper from the free throw line to go up 49-48 with 3:41 to play, they would not relinquish the advantage for the remainder of the game. Concordia cut the gap to 56-55 at the 1:48 mark, but Gustavus capped the game on an 8-2 run – knocking down all six of its free tosses in the last two minutes.

Maddie Ehrich pulls up for a jumper in front of Concordia's Morgan Gunderson.

Maddie Ehrich pulls up for a jumper in front of Concordia’s Morgan Gunderson.

“We continued to stay in the game because of our defense and in the end it came down to free throw shooting,” said Kelly about the second half. “We didn’t shoot a free throw in the first half and were lights out at the line in the second. When we were able to get to the line and later the bonus, we capitalized. That to me was the biggest difference in the game.”

Although the Gusties shot just 33.3-percent from the field in the second half, it was their shooting performance at the line that played a key role in the outcome. Gustavus finished the game 23-for-55 (41.8%) from the floor, 1-for-6 (16.7%) from three-point range, and 17-for-18 (94.4%) at the line.  All of Gustavus’s free throws were attempted in the second half.

“There’s something unique about this team’s ability to finish games out,” continued Kelly about her team’s late-game performance. “Usually young teams don’t handle pressure situations as well, but this team seems to thrive towards the end of the game. We get better as the game goes and have a lot of confidence – especially at home – down the stretch.”

Leading Gustavus’s strong finish was Hannah Howard (So., St. Paul, Minn.) who scored 13 second half points after going 3-for-3 from the field and 7-for-8 at the line. Howard finished with 19 total points on 6-of-7 shooting and brought down a game-high seven rebounds.

“Hannah Howard was huge for us tonight,” said Kelly about her sophomore wing. “She’s a spark plug on the defensive end and she continues to become a greater offensive threat. Her free throw shooting has improved immensely this year and her ability to cash in at the line turned out to be one of the key factors tonight.”

Mikayla Miller (Fy., Goodhue, Minn.) finished next in line with 14 points after going 4-for-15 from the floor and 6-for-6 at the line. Maddie Ehrich ended up with 13 on 5-of-8 shooting.

Concordia went 16-for-43 (37.2%) from the field, 7-for-19 (36.8%) from three, and 18-for-23 (78.3%) at the line.  Leading the Cobbers was Olivia Johnson with 14 points, followed by Greta Walsh with 12, and Alley Fisher with 11.

Gustavus won the battle on the glass 38-26 and outscored Concordia in the paint 34-14.

“This was a standard MIAC win – a hard-nosed, not particularly pretty victory,” Kelly said in closing. “But, that’s what you have to do in this league. It was good to be back at home for the first time in over a month and I thought the team thrived on the chance to get back on the winning track at home. When you’re not playing great basketball you can still grind out a win through effort. This game proves that and it’s a great confidence builder for future games of this type.”

The Gusties will be back in action on Saturday, Jan. 17 when they travel to St. Joseph to face the Blazers of the College of Saint Benedict at 3:00 p.m.

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