Jackson, Tenn. - Despite overcoming a 21-point deficit with 18:14 remaining in the second half, the No. 14 ranked Saint Xavier University women's basketball team could not get off a game-tying shot in the closing seconds and fell, 81-78, to No. 17 ranked Lubbock Christian University (Texas) in the opening game of the 2008 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championships Wednesday morning at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn. It was a tale of two halves as the Cougars struggled to a slow start in first half action and trailed, 42-25, at the halftime break, but scored an impressive 53 points after halftime to make things interesting in the closing minutes.
Freshman point guard Alex Barone (Joliet, Ill./Marian Catholic) led SXU with a game-high-tying 17 points. Senior guard Candis Jackson (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) and sophomore forward Erin Hannemann (Homer Glen, Ill./Providence Catholic) each chipped in 14 points, while senior forward Jackie Heine (Hampshire, Ill./Hannibal-LaGrange) and sophomore guard Kathlyn McClain (Oak Forest, Ill./Converse College) had 13 and 10 points, respectively. Heine led the Cougars on the boards with six rebounds. As a team, Saint Xavier finished with 11 steals and helped to force 27 Lady Chaps turnovers in the game, including 15 miscues in the second half.
Things looked pretty dismal for SXU in the first half as Lubbock Christian opened the game with a 9-0 run in the first four minutes. The Lady Chaps continued to take advantage of the slow offensive start for the Cougars and built a 20-point advantage, 35-15, with 3:54 to play in the first half. Lubbock Christian opened the second half with six quick points to build a 21-point lead, 48-27, near the 18:00 mark, its largest of the game. However, the Cougars increased their defensive pressure and it paid off as the team went on a 28-9 scoring run to pull within two points, 57-55, with 8:38 to play in regulation. Just two minutes later, the game saw its first tie, 63-63, following a pair of free throws by Barone.
Things stayed tight the rest of the way and, with 29 seconds remaining, Barone was fouled on a lay-up off a steal and converted the three-point play to bring SXU to within one, 79-78. Unfortunately for the Cougars, it took 23 seconds to get a foul and LCU's junior guard Sierra Wilcox-Lovorn hit both her free throws to put her team ahead by three, 81-78, with six seconds remaining. SXU was unable to get a game-tying three-pointer off before the buzzer sounded.
Saint Xavier ends its 2007-08 season with an overall record of 23-9. The Cougars won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) regular season title and were ranked as high as No. 5 nationally during the season.Click here for game stats