Tonight: MIAC semifinal for Saint Mary’s women’s basketball

When the season began, the question was how would the Saint Mary’s women’s basketball team respond to the new leadership of Brent Pollari following the abrupt departure of two-time MIAC Coach of the Year Mandy Pearson.

The Cardinals’ answer was an emphatic one, winning 20 games to earn the No. 2 seed and a bye in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.

SMU (20-5, 14-4) will host Gustavus Adolphus in a semifinal at Saint Mary’s Gym on Thursday, a venue where the Redbirds posted a 9-2 record during the regular season.

Saint Mary’s closed out the regular season with an 89-65 loss at No. 8 (and top-seeded) St. Thomas, but would love nothing more than to meet up with the Tommies for a third time this season, should both teams reach the final.

When the dust settled on the regular season, SMU led the league with 41.4 rebounds per game, and finished second for scoring offense (70.2 points per game) and free throw percentage (73.5).

Brandi Blattner paced the team for scoring (16.6) and led the conference in rebounding (10.4) while shooting 49 percent from the floor and knocking down 40.7 percent of her 3-point attempts (11-for-27) in a campaign that should easily yield MIAC Freshman of the Year honors.

Micaela Meredith also had a strong year, posting 14.2 points per game with an 88 percent performance from the charity stripe.

The backcourt tandem of Bridget Pethke and Emma Schaefer was one of the best in the league. The duo provided the Cardinals with 17.4 points, 9.1 assists and 4.1 steals per game, and Pethke led the MIAC with 3.1 thefts per.

Though SMU didn’t barrage opponents with 3-point attempts, they were dangerous from long range as Blattner, Schaefer, Alexa Huisman and Bridgette Audette combined to connect on 38.3 percent from beyond the arc (84-for-219) for the season.

Gustavus Adolphus (20-6, 14-4) advanced to the semifinal by posting its first MIAC playoff victory since 2012 in a 65-40 win over College of Saint Benedict on February 23. 11 of its 15 players scored in the contest, led by Mikayla Miller’s 24 points. Miller also added 10 assists, five steals and three rebounds.

The Gusties had the fourth leading scoring offense  (68.9) in the league, while Miller ranked fourth in points per game (15.6) and Lindsey Johnson was fourth for 3-point field goal percentage (43.1).

The Cardinals defeated Gustavus 82-74 on December 2.

Pregame begins at 6:45 with tip-off at 7 p.m., only on TV 25!


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