After splitting pivotal conference road games, beating St. Thomas and falling to conference-leading St. Ben’s, the Gusties are still in striking distance of first place
The Gustavus Women’s Basketball team is midway through its eight game road trip, in which all eight games will be played in a matter of 20 days. The last three games that the Gusties played have proved pivotal in conference play, facing three teams with winning records within the MIAC.
Last Wednesday the squad took a trip to Arden Hills where they squared off against Bethel University. After an evenly played first half, Bethel came out strong in the second, pushing their lead to 51-41 with just under seven minutes remaining.
The Gusties used another 8-0 run to pull within two at 51-49, and a pair of free throws from Junior Katie Layman brought the Gusties within one at 56-55. After a Bethel turnover, Senior Emily Nelson dropped in what proved to be the winning layup with :02 left on the clock. Nelson led all Gustavus scorers with 15 while Junior Julia Schultz added 11 points and 5 rebounds. The win puts them in a tie with Concordia for second place in the MIAC with a 7-2 conference record.
The next stop on the road trip was St. Thomas, who sat just a half game behind Gustavus in the conference standings at the time. The Tommies led most of the first half after coming out firing behind a 10-2 run. Gustavus responded with an 11-2 run to close the gap and took a 27-22 lead going into halftime. The second half was all Gustavus as they pieced together a couple of early runs and pushed their lead to the biggest stretch of the night at 41-25, a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Schultz led all scorers with 16 points, and Sophomore Molly Mathiowetz chipped in 13. Junior Brianna Radtke also came up big, grabbing seven rebounds to go along with three assists. The win vaulted Gustavus into a three-way tie atop the MIAC with St. Ben’s and Concordia, all of whom have identical records of 8-2.
This past Monday the Gusties took a trip up to St. Joseph, hoping to break the first place tie and stay at the top of the MIAC. The first half was evenly matched once again, while both teams struggled to score, but the Gusties were able to fight through the chilly shooting and took a 26-25 point lead into halftime.
From there it was all downhill for Gustavus, with St. Ben’s scoring the first eight points of the second half. Turnovers and cold shooting plagued the Gusties and proved too much to overcome. Gustavus shot only 20.7 percent from the floor in the second half, and St. Ben’s pushed their lead to 17, eventually winning 68-45. Nelson was the only Gustavus player to reach double digits, scoring 10 points and pulling down 6 rebounds.
The Gusties have been struggling with their shooting percentage over the last couple games, shooting only 33.5 percent from the floor in the last three games. Defense has helped to weather the storm, though, as Gustavus has been forcing an impressive mark of 22.3 turnovers per game this season, including 13.7 steals per game to hold a +6.9 turnover margin over their opponents. “We are definitely a team that focuses on our defensive play, and are very aggressive when it comes to putting pressure on the ball and making sure we get into passing lanes,” said Mathiowetz, attributing the turnovers to their defensive pressure.
“It is an all around team effort and requires everyone to be aware of what is happening on and off the ball,” said Layman.
Gustavus currently sits in third place in the MIAC with a conference record of 8-3 while holding an overall record of 10-4. Gustavus played Carleton the night of Wednesday, Jan. 21, and will continue its road trip Saturday Jan. 24 at 1:00 p.m. as part of a Women’s/Men’s double header.