ST. PAUL – St. Thomas women's basketball built a 17-point lead (58-41) after three quarters and thwarted a fourth quarter comeback bid in a 71-62 win over Bethel University on Wednesday night at Schoenecker Arena. With the win, the Tommies remain unbeaten with a record of 11-0 (5-0 MIAC), while the Royals drop to 9-3 (4-1 MIAC).
St. Thomas jumped out to an early 9-0 run through the opening six minutes of play. The Tommies converted four layups and a foul shot to open with the quick spurt. But the Royals came back to score eight of the next 11 points and cut the lead to 12-8 with just under three minutes to play in the first quarter.
After Jasmin Bretoi hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to three (16-13) with less than a minute remaining, senior Gabby Zehrer connected on two of three free throws to push the lead to 18-13 headed to the second quarter.
The Tommies then extended their lead to as many as 10 points in the second, and took a nine-point lead (35-26) to the break. In the first half, St. Thomas shot just 36.8-percent (14-38) compared to 44.4-percent (8-18) for Bethel, but managed to take 20 more shot attempts than the Royals thanks in large part to 11 offensive rebounds, four of which went to senior Kaitlin Langer.
Midway through the third quarter, the two seniors, Zehrer and Langer, helped spark a 13-2 run that gave St. Thomas its largest lead of the night at 19 points (56-37). The Purple took a 17-point lead (58-41) to the final frame.
A 6-2 burst out of the gate helped swing the tide in Bethel's favor, and after Langer created a brief pause with an and-one to put the Tommies back in front by 16, the Royals rattled off nine straight points to cut the lead to just seven (63-56) with less than three minutes to play.
Hannah Johnson scored a layup to cut the lead to six with two and a half minutes to play, as the Royals gained steam, but the Tommie women put a stop to any momentum by making five of six free throw attempts over a minute span to put away the victory.
Wednesday night's statistics came out nearly even on each side. St. Thomas shot 39.7-percent (25-63) from the field, while Bethel put in 40.7-percent (22-54) of its field goal attempts. Each team made six three-pointers and the Tommies converted 15-of-22 (68.2%) free throw attempts to a 12-for-20 (60%) mark for the Royals.
Each team had 14 turnovers, which lead to 13 points for Bethel and 12 for the Tommies. The Royals also held a 15-13 advantage in assists. However, the Tommies controlled the boards, outrebounding the Royals 44-33, which led to a 18-6 advantage in second chance points.
Langer led the way with 24 points and 12 boards to notch her 19th career double-double in purple and gray. She led four Tommies in double-figure scoring. Junior Lauren Fischer followed with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including a 3-for-5 night from downtown. Zehrer finished with 12 points in just 17 minutes, and fellow senior Paige Gernes added 11.
For Bethel, Hannah Johnson came off the bench to contribute a double-double, including a team-high 16 points of 7-of-9 shooting from the floor, as well as 11 rebounds. Taite Anderson chipped in 13 pints and Abby Miller finished with 10.
The Tommies will be back in action again on Saturday when they travel to Northfield, Minn., to take on Carleton College at 1:00 pm.