Gettysburg College’s Christina Richson (20) drives around a Messiah defender during Tuesday’s non-conference game in Gettysburg. Richson netted a career-high 20 points in leading the Bullets past the Falcons, 65-55.

Messiah University rolled into town ranked fifth in the country in NCAA Division III women’s basketball, but the Falcons had their wings clipped by Gettysburg College in the Bullets’ home opener, 65-55, on Tuesday night at Bream Gym.

The win was Gettysburg’s first over a top 5 opponent since beating Scranton in the opening round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament.

Cold shooting by the visitors and a strong defensive effort in the second half by the Bullets were the key factors in the victory.

Messiah (2-1) shot just 7-of-36 (19 percent) from the field and scored 19 points after intermission. For the game, the Falcons weren’t a whole lot better, shooting 19-of-68 (28 percent).

“We communicated well on defense and they missed some open shots,” Gettysburg head coach Nate Davis said. “We’ve got a long way to go to get to where we want to be as a team, but I’m seeing some positives that we can build on.”

Gettysburg (2-1) trailed 36-35 at intermission, but a triple by Christina Richson to begin the third quarter pushed the Bullets in front.

The lead switched hands five times during the first five minutes of the second half before Hannah Sauve buried a trifecta off a drive-and-kick assist from freshman point guard Mackenzie Szlosek at the 4:36 mark to put Gettysburg ahead to stay, 45-43.

Szlosek handed out four assists to go with 11 points and nine boards. She leads the team in both rebounds (7.3 rpg) and assists (3.3 apg) so far this season.

“Mackenzie has done some really nice things for us already, I’ve seen some really promising things from her,” Davis said. “Her presence also allows Christina to play shooting guard, which is her more natural position.”

Richson connected six times from beyond the arc towards a new career high of 20 points on Tuesday.

“I did what I could to help the team,” Richson said of playing the point in 2019-20. “But I’m much more comfortable playing off the ball and focusing on shooting it when I’m open.”

Richson’s triple started a 12-3 sprint by the hosts to finish off the third quarter and sent them to the final stanza holding a 54-46 advantage.

Gettysburg kept pushing in the final frame, bumping its advantage to double digits for the first time when Richson buried her final 3-pointer of the evening off of a kick-out from Delaney Donohoe with 8:05 to play to make it 58-46.

“Christina has shot the ball really well so far this season,” Davis said. “She’s such a passionate player and a competitor. She’s not afraid of the big moment and she really steps up in those situations.”

A single bucket apiece over the next six minutes kept the Bullets’ advantage at a dozen and they took their largest lead of the game when Carly Rice connected on a bomb from the right corner with 2:18 left that made it 63-48.

Gettysburg jumped out to an 11-2 lead halfway through the opening quarter, but the Bullets trailed at the end of that frame following a hoop by New Oxford grad Morgan Adams that made it 18-17 in favor of Messiah.

Adams, who transferred in after playing her freshman campaign at LaSalle University last year, finished Tuesday’s contest with two points and one rebound in eight minutes of action.

A pair of charity tosses by Reese Harden gave the Falcons their largest lead of the night, 24-19, with 6:18 to play until halftime.

“This was a big win for us over an excellent team that deserved to be ranked where they are,” Davis said. “It was important to get this win, because they beat us the last two times we faced them. This win could really help us with our seeding, if we’re fortunate enough to make it to the (NCAA) tournament. They’re in the same region as us and that’s something that factors into seeding.”

The Bullets’ backcourt was joined in double figures by senior forward Mackenzie Tinner, who posted 10 points and nine boards.

Harden was the high-scorer for the Falcons with 14 points, while Leah Springer put up 11 markers to go with 10 caroms.

Gettysburg’s next game is its Centennial Conference opener which is on the road at Johns Hopkins University next Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Bullets’ next home game is on Tuesday Nov 30 with McDaniel College in the opener of a women’s/men’s twinbill at 6 p.m.

“We got a good win tonight, but we can’t rest on that,” Davis said. “We’ve got a tough game at Hopkins next Tuesday that we’ve got to get ready for.”

Follow Tom Sixeas on Twitter at @TomSixeas

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