Women’s basketball thrives in Pasadena

The St. Olaf women’s basketball team made a rare trip to California over Thanksgiving break to face off against Occidental College and the California Institute of Technology. The first game in Los Angeles against Occidental ended in a 50-42 loss for the Oles. St. Olaf got off to a quick 14-5 lead in the first half, but Occidental rallied with a 12-4 run in the second quarter, including a 9-0 stretch, to close out the first half with a 24-18 lead, which it did not surrender for the remainder of the contest.

St. Olaf’s offense went cold after a 14-point first quarter, only managing 14 total points in the second and third quarters combined. By the time they found their rhythm for another 14-point display in the fourth quarter, Occidental already possessed a 16-point lead, and the game was well out of reach. The Oles shot at a clip of 26.4 percent from the floor and committed 15 to cap off a rough day offensively.

Some silver linings from the contest are the performances from the team’s younger players and a rigid defense that kept the contest competitive. Makenna Ash ’19 led the Oles with 10 points, and Ella Skrien ’20 added nine of her own. The team will need breakout seasons from its underclassmen if it hopes to attain enough depth to compete in conference this season – if they keep performing well, both Ash and Skrien will be significant in providing that advantage. Despite the dearth of consistent offense, the Ole defense held strong, holding the Tigers to 34.6 percent shooting from the floor, also inspiring optimism for the regular season.

The following day, the Oles were back in action in Pasadena against Caltech. This time the Oles won by a comfortable margin of 61-48, thanks to notable performances from Betsey Daly ’17 and Margaret Andersen ’19. Daly scored seven points and had a huge day on the glass, notching 18 rebounds. The mark was two rebounds shy of her own school record, which she set as a sophomore in a 2015 win at St. Catherine’s. Andersen led the Oles in scoring with 14 points, including four three-pointers. She also recorded three steals in the game, contributing to the 18 turnovers forced by St. Olaf. Caltech outshot the Oles by 8 percent, but the difference came through defense – St. Olaf had 13 steals, 10 more than its opponent. This time the Oles supported their defense with 34.2 percent accuracy in three-point shooting, the clinching factor in St. Olaf’s second win of the early season. Michelle Lother ’20 and Miranda Thacker ’19 each knocked down three from behind the arc in addition to Andersen’s four triples.

The win in an unfamiliar West Coast setting should help propel St. Olaf into conference play with confidence. It was a rare trip for the Ole basketball team, but it should be a rewarding one as the young team was able to get some valuable non-conference experience.