Minneapolis – Because of a strong second half surge and one of the best all-around career performances by its senior captain Abby Rothenbuehler (North Mankato, Minn.), the Gustavus women's basketball team was able to come away with a 63-52 victory over Augsburg College on Wednesday night at Si Melby Hall. The Gusties shot 65.2-percent from the field in the second half, while Rothenbuehler scored a career best 23 points with nine rebounds, five blocks, and two steals to boot.
"It was a good team win for us tonight and it was great to see productivity up and down our lineup," said Head Coach Laurie Kelly. "We were able to keep people fresh throughout the game and that eventually wore Augsburg down. We got pushed around some in the first half, but settled down and battled in the second."
With a victory in their MIAC-opener, the Gustie women improve to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the conference. Augsburg drops to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Kelly explained that tonight's game was a tale of two halves for the Gusties. "We were two different teams tonight," she said. "In the first half we struggled to get the ball moving offensively. Similar to what Mankato showed, Augsburg's defense played in the passing lanes and created turnovers.
"To only be down two points at halftime after allowing them 13 more shot attempts was pretty fortunate. I was happy with our defensive performance in the first half, but you don't want to see only 23 points on the scoreboard heading into the locker room."
Gustavus outshot the Auggies 42.9-to 32.4-percent from the field in the first half, yet trailed by two (25-23) heading into the break. The Gusties doubled up Augsburg's first half turnover total with 12 in the opening 20 minutes. Rothenbuehler led the team with 12 first half points and five rebounds.
After Augsburg grabbed a 30-25 lead early in the second half, Gustavus responded with an 8-3 scoring run to tie the game at 33-33 with 15:18 on the clock. The Gusties kept the pressure on, adding five more points to the run to go up 38-33 following a Rothenbuehler three-pointer with 13:47 left.
The Gusties continued to push the envelope through the middle stages of the second half, going up 44-35 at 11:19 mark and 55-40 with 7:08 left to play. A pair of free throws Britta Rinke (Waconia, Minn.) 5:18 on the clock gave Gustavus its largest lead of the night at 59-40. Augsburg could not recover and the Gusties held to a double-digit advantage for the remainder of the game.
"We made some good adjustments at halftime and began playing better team basketball," said Kelly. "We limited turnovers, knocked down some shots, and started to play better defense. The second half was a true test of our character – we'd been challenged and we weren't playing the type of basketball we knew we were capable of. In the second half, we rolled up or sleeves and went to work one possession at a time."
Because the Gusties took better shots and found their way to the basket more often, they were rewarded with their best shooting performance of any half this season, going 15-for-23 from the floor in the second half.
By the final buzzer, Gustavus shot 54.5-percent (24-24) from the field, 25-percent from three-point range (2-8), and 65-percent (13-20) from the free throw line.
Rothenbuehler's 23 points matches her career-high, which she scored on Feb. 8, 2012 last season against Saint Mary's. Her five blocked shots is a career-best, while the senior came just shy of that elusive first double-double of the season after bringing down nine boards.
Talking about her senior forward, Kelly stated, "Roth is a veteran player who brings a ton of experience to this team. She takes on a lot of responsibility and we need her to play well to win games. Tonight she took great shots, finished drives, played outstanding defense, and continued to dominate the glass. That's the type of solid all-around game that we count on from Abby night in and night out."
Britta Rinke finished next in line behind Rothenbuehler with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Rinke turned it on in the second half, going 5-for-6 from the field for 12 points with four rebounds.
"Britta has come strong over the last couple games and is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now. She couldn't find her rhythm in the first half, yet didn't let that bother her and put together a fantastic second half, which was a major reason we were so efficient down the stretch," commented Kelly.
Kelsey Florian (Roseville, Minn.) also reached double-digits with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Despite losing the turnover battle 19-12, Gustavus outrebounded Augsburg 40-34.
Coach Kelly was especially pleased with Gustavus' work shutting down two of Augsburg's top scorers in Brittny Zins and Anne Skriba. Both Zins and Skriba combined to go 3-for-17 from the field for a total of seven points between them. The Auggies were led in scoring by Jolene Blood who had 22 points after going 8-for-16 from the field.
Augsburg shot 31.3-percent (21-67) from the field, 31.8-percent (7-22) from three, and 37.5-percent (3-8) at the line.
"We have to become road warriors with only one home game before Christmas break," said Kelly about Gustavus' grueling upcoming schedule. "Going up to Saint Ben's to take on one of the top teams in the league for our next outing will be a good test for us. We have to play better early and not turn the ball over. We played Gustie basketball over the last 20 minutes tonight and hopefully we carry that into Saturday."
The Gustavus women's basketball team will travel to St. Joseph on Saturday to face the Blazers at 3:00 p.m.