The Saint Mary's University (SMU) women's basketball team entered Sunday's matchup against Luther College looking to close out their non-conference schedule on a high note.
Luther, however, had other ideas.
The Norse held the Cardinals to 35 first-half points — including just seven in the game's opening 10 minutes — and never took their foot off the accelerator, as Luther dealt Saint Mary's an 81-56 setback at the Saint Mary's Gym.
The Cardinals could not seem to find their touch in the first half, shooting just 20 percent from the field — including managing just two field goals on 14 attempts in the opening 10 minutes.
After missing on their first four attempts, Ashley Streveler drained a three-pointer to give Saint Mary's an early 3-2 advantage. That, however, would be the only time the Cardinals would play with the lead, as Luther would close the quarter scoring 11 of the final 16 points for a 13-8 lead.
After surrendering the first six points of the second quarter, Brooklyn Paulson hoisted the Cardinals on her shoulders, scoring Saint Mary's first 12 points — including sandwiching two free throws between a pair of three-point bombs as part of a 8-0 run that got the Cardinals back within five, 21-16.
Luther answered with an 8-0 run of its own for a 13-point, 29-16 lead with six minutes to play in the half. And the Norse would continue to expand their lead over those final six minutes, scoring the final seven points of the half to take a commanding 41-24 lead into the locker room at the break.
Things didn't heat up much for the Cardinals in the second half, either, as Luther outscored Saint Mary's 21-13 in the third quarter — building leads as big as 26, before settling for a 62-37 cushion heading into the game's final 10-minute period.
The Cardinals would match the Norse with 19 points in the fourth quarter — led by seven points from Macey Petron— but it was not nearly enough.
Paulson closed out the afternoon with a team-leading 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting with three three-pointers and a 4-for-5 showing from the free throw line. Petron, meanwhile, went 5-for-11 with one three-pointer en route to her career-high 11-point showing.
The Cardinals (2-3 overall) return to Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play on Wednesday, heading to Saint Benedict's Claire Lynch Hall in St. Joseph, Minn., for a 7 p.m. showdown against the Bennies.