Toms run with streak to 17, gain conference cushion
St. Thomas extended its winning streak to 17 games – and its lead in the MIAC race to two games – with a convincing 72-52 win over second-place Gustavus Adolphus in a conference women's basketball game Saturday in St. Peter.
The Tommies (17-1, 15-0 MIAC) controlled the tempo for much of the game but couldn't shake the Gusties (15-3, 13-2), who closed to within four points at 51-47 on a three-pointer. Kelly Ring immediately answered with her own trey for the Tommies and they closed the game with a 21-5 run and 13 straight freethrows.
Maggie Weiers led St. Thomas with 21 points, including 13 of 14 from the free-throw line, and Taylor Young and Sarah Smith added 17 and 13, respectively. The trio also gave the Tommies a 38-32 edge on the boards, with Smith grabbing 10, Young 9 and Weiers 8.
"The best thing about this team is that everyone works well together," Coach Ruth Sinn said. "We have drivers, shooters and post players, and when we need a big bucket, it always comes from a different player."
Sinn expected a physical rematch with the Gusties, who lost their December game at St. Thomas 69-60 and had since won 12 games in a row.
"Gustavus is an aggressive team," Sinn said. "We knew we had to match them in intensity and be strong with the basketball."
The intensity was especially evident on defense. St. Thomas held Gustavus to 30 percent shooting, including only 2 of 19 from three-point range. The Gusties' leading scorer, Molly Geske (14.4 points per game) was 1 for 13 from the field, didn't score her basket until two minutes remained in the game and finished with five points.
The Tommies jumped out to a 16-5 lead on the strength of a 12-0 run and a Gustavus scoring drought that lasted more than six minutes. The Gusties responded with an 8-0 run to narrow the St. Thomas lead to 16-13 but could get no closer, and the Tommies finished the first half with a Kelly Brandenburg jumper at the buzzer to lead 37-26.
In the second half, the Gusties could close to only four points with 6:46 left before Ring scored her only points of the game on a three-pointer. Smith stole the ball on the next Gustavus possession and a Young layup restored the nine-point lead.
While Sinn was pleased at how well her team played down the stretch in winning its 17th straight game, she didn't want to focus on that achievement.
"Seventeen in a row is not important," she said. "What's important is, are we getting better as a team? Are we better than the team that beat Gustavus by nine last month?
"I think we are."
The Tommies return to action on Monday night with a home game against Macalester and then travel to St. Benedict on Wednesday.
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