Women’s college basketball: Kaelyn Christian leads defensive-minded Yellowjackets to beat Saints – Duluth News Tribune

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Superior: With just over 90 seconds left in the first quarter, Wisconsin-Superior senior Kaelyn Christian saw an opportunity in the Yellowjackets’ matchup against St. Scholastica on Tuesday night at Mertz Mortorelli Gymnasium.

The Saints’ Nia Hacker was looking for a tee pass at the top of the key, but kept the ball too far from her body. Christian moved to take the ball from him and was fouled on his way to the basket.

Christian made both free throws, giving the Yellowjackets an early seven-point lead and UWS would go on to a 71-47 victory. He scored a game-high 16 points while collecting three steals in the process.

UW-Superior's Bryton Kukowski (25) is fouled by St. Scholastica's Ashley Faur (21) on his way to the hoop

UWS’s Bryton Kukowski (25) is fouled by St. Scholastica’s Ashley Faur (21) on his way to the rim in the second quarter of the game at Superior Tuesday night.

Jed Carlson / Top Telegram

“We definitely have a defensive approach when it comes to practicing, but we’re not robots,” Christian said. “We know where we are supposed to be, we know how to stay close, we know how to press, but we also know how to read things. If a girl is holding the ball, you go in and grab it and run with it.”

The Yellowjacket defense was stifling against the Saints and that’s the way UWS freshman coach Emily Carpenter likes it. CSS didn’t score for nearly four minutes and didn’t have a field goal until Katie Vaske hit a 3-pointer with 1:42 left in the first quarter. The Saints had just 11 field goals and shot better than 23% from the field.

Elise Besonen (22) of UW-Superior saves a ball from going over half court in front of Lexi Imdieke (1) of St. Scholastica

UW-Superior’s Elise Besonen (22) saves a ball from going over half court against St. Scholastica’s Lexi Imdieke (1) in the first quarter of the game at Superior Tuesday night.

Jed Carlson / Top Telegram

“We really pride ourselves on our defense here,” Carpenter said. “We were in people’s faces, we were changing, denying and that’s where I tell them we’re going to win games. We’re going to win on the defensive end, looking for fumbles, diving here and there and everyone who comes in will try their best.”

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CSS lost two starters, including freshman Jackie Johnson, and junior Miranda Broberg was limited after being cleared just hours before the game, but coach Jasonb Schmitz didn’t want to blame the missing players. Vaske led the Saints with 14 points, but was the only CSS player to reach double figures.

Katie Vaske (30) of St. Scholastica tries to drive on Mady Sanders (15) of UW-Superior

St. Scholastica’s Katie Vaske (30) tries to push Wisconsin-Superior’s Mady Sanders (15) in the second quarter of the game in Superior Tuesday night.

Jed Carlson / Top Telegram

“They came out, they were a little more physical than us and they took us out of our rhythm,” Schmitz said.

The Yellowjackets were not only strong defensively, but also played well on the offensive end. Instead of settling for contested jumpers, they were making the extra pass to get a better view and it showed in the results.

“We love basketball and you can tell they genuinely enjoy being together and playing good team basketball,” Carpenter said. “We’ve really learned a lot in these last two games: the five people that are there, they want to win and they’re doing it regardless of whether it’s them scoring or their teammates and they’re all happy for each other.”

Liz Frase (4) of St. Scholastica searches for a loose ball with Sam Parendo (11) of UW-Superior

St. Scholastica’s Liz Frase (4) searches for a fumble with Wisconsin-Superior’s Sam Parendo (11) in the first quarter of play at Superior Tuesday night.

Jed Carlson / Top Telegram

Despite the loss, Schmitz said the Saints have several new players in the program and they are all still learning their movement offense. CSS earned their first win in almost two years last season, but they are still learning and it will take time to get the program to where Schmitz wants it to be.

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“Our hope is that by January we are clicking, but it takes time when you are rebuilding the program,” he said. “We took over the program about 14 months ago and we won a game last year for the first time in 718 days, it takes time to build these things.”

UWS (2-0) will play the No. 13 Simpson at 2 pm Saturday in Indianola, Iowa.

CSS (0-2) will play Concordia-Moorhead at 3 pm Saturday in Duluth

Elise Besonen (22) of UW-Superior falls down court after saving the ball from going over half court

Wisconsin-Superior’s Elise Besonen (22) falls to the court after preventing the ball from going over half court in the first quarter of the Yellowjackets’ game against St. Scholastica in Superior on Tuesday night.

Jed Carlson / Top Telegram