Women’s Basketball Comeback Falls Short at Simpson 73-67

Posted on March 4th, 2022 by

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INDIANOLA, Iowa – Trailing by 19 points with 8:24 left in the game, the Gustavus women’s basketball team could have taken the easy way out, packed it in, and accepted defeat. Instead, the Gusties battled all the way to the bitter end, cutting the deficit to four points twice in the final minute, but eventually fell to host Simpson 73-67 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Simpson had full control of the first half, jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the opening three minutes while Gustavus struggled to find a rhythm on either end of the court. The Gusties cut the deficit to three before the Storm answered with a five consecutive points to close the first quarter up 16-8.

Gustavus trailed by as much as 13 and as few as seven points in the second quarter, leading to a 30-18 Simpson advantage at halftime. The Gusties had issues with ball control, turning the ball over 14 times in the first half while shooting a pedestrian 25 percent. Despite all the miscues, the visitors were still within striking distance.

“In the first 20 minutes, the moment seemed a little too big for us. We had errors that we haven’t seen in a long time and resistance to taking shots I know we’re comfortable taking,” Head Coach Laurie Kelly said.

The scoring gap continued to grow in the third quarter with the Storm out-scoring the Gusties 22-17 in the frame for a 52-35 lead heading into the fourth. Simpson went up 19 points 1:36 into the fourth, but the Gusties ensued with an impressive comeback effort. Emma Kniefel (So., Medford) scored five straight points to start the rally. After trading buckets midway through the frame, Anna Sanders (Jr., Vadnais Heights) sunk a three followed by Kylie Baranick (Fy., Maple Grove) creating a turnover and going to the other end for a fastbreak layup to bring the score within single digits for the first time since the second quarter.

After three missed Simpson shots, Baranick nailed a clutch three to make the score 68-62 with 1:15 left in the game. The teams traded free throws, but on a missed second free throw by the Gusties, Kniefel out-hustled her defender to grab an offensive rebound, was fouled, and made both free throws to make it a four-point game with 19 seconds on the clock. Simpson and the Gusties traded baskets once again to keep the differential at four points, but the clock ran down to three seconds were the Storm made a pair of free throws to secure the game.

“At halftime we talked about how we deserve to be here and we needed to play the final 20 minutes the way we know we’re capable of,” Kelly said. “The team that played the last 20 minutes is a team that I feel can compete with anyone in the country. Unfortunately for us we weren’t able to put enough of those minutes together. I’m really proud with how the team responded and it was such a great experience for a young team to be able to have this moment and build toward the next season.”

Kniefel scored a career-high 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 from the free throw line. Sanders added 11 points, a trio of three-pointers, and five rebounds. Grace Benz (Sr., Steele, N.D.) led the team with 10 rebounds and was two points shy of a double-double.

The Gusties shot 42.4 percent during the game, including 63.2 percent in the fourth quarter where they scored 32 points. They also out-rebounded the Storm 42-37. After committing 14 turnovers in the first half, the Gusties turned the ball over just three times in the final 20 minutes.

 

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