By Brandon Spratt
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Despite several close games, St. Ben’s basketball is off to a hot start.

“I think our overall depth and our returners have been the two biggest keys this year,” Head Coach Mike Durbin said.

Starting the season strong is not new for St. Ben’s basketball, just a year ago it started 7-0 by outscoring its opponents by 14 points per game.

This season CSB outscored its opponents by 7.8 points per game during the five-game winning streak to start the season.

“Not to take anything away from last year’s group, but this nonconference schedule has been tougher,” Durbin said.

Senior forward Chelsey Guetter recorded double-doubles against Minnesota Morris and Buena Vista (Iowa).

“Especially nonconference games are not like MIAC teams so you don’t really know to expect. I think that really helps us in a certain way,” Guetter said.

In last year’s seven-game win streak, the closest game was seven points. This year, the Bennies have already played three games that finished within one possession.

“Our free throw percentage has improved a lot since last year,” Guetter said. “Down the stretch you see those two points here and there definitely make a difference.”

Guetter is second on the team with 10.5 points per game. She leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game and 2.2 assists per game.

“I think right now I’m not necessarily focusing on individual stats and getting better individually, but more so what can I do to help the team in my last season,” Guetter said.

The team is scoring more effectively as well with 59.7 points per game so far this season compared to 57.9 last season.

“We’re a really balanced scoring team and I think that it’s tough for certain opponents to scout against us because we don’t really rely on one player,” Guetter said.

The defense has remained steady and in fact improved from last year giving up 54.5 points per game after 56.7 last season.

“We’ve also picked up where we left off at last year, especially at the defensive end,” Durbin said.

A sidebar to the Bennies’ season is Coach Durbin’s search for his 500th MIAC win in his 32nd season with the program.

“It’s just a sign of longevity and consistency within the program over time and that is something that I’m really proud of,” Durbin said.

Durbin is one of 13 coaches all-time in Division III women’s basketball to win 600 career games. He has won over 75 percent of his games in 32 seasons as CSB head coach.

“I think it’s definitely important and kind of a special moment to be a part of one of those monumental wins for a coach,” Guetter said.

Durbin has coached the team to 16 NCAA Tournament appearances and two Final Fours, but he doesn’t take any win for granted.

“I hope that there’s a 501st win at some point,” Durbin said.

UW-Eau Claire 48, CSB 40
The CSB basketball team was handed their first loss of the season on Nov. 29 against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. CSB only scored five points in the first quarter. By the end of the game, CSB had shot only 21 percent and went only 13 for 21 from the line.

Sophomore Sydney Schiffler led the team in scoring with 8 points. CSB returns to their home court on Dec. 2 when they take on Bethel.

FEATURE PHOTO COURTESY OF CSB ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS
Senior Niki Fokken takes a jump shot in CSB’s victory over the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse during the Quinlivan & Hughes Tip-Off tournament on Nov. 18.