Jackson, Tenn. - Junior point guard Alex Barone (Joliet, Ill./Marian Catholic) proved why she is the catalyst that makes the No. 2 ranked Saint Xavier University women's basketball team go dropping a game-high 26 points in an 81-71 victory over No. 8 seed Evangel University (Mo.) in first-round action of the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championships at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn. The win improves SXU's record to 30-1 overall, the first time that the program has hit the 30-win mark since its inception back in 2000. In addition, senior forward Erin Hannemann (Homer Glen, Ill./Providence Catholic) had a big game as well scoring 21 points and pulling down six rebounds, while sophomore guard Marissa Young (Monroe, Wis./St. Joseph's College/Monroe) provided a huge lift off the bench with 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
The game was tight in the first half with neither team able to establish any momentum for very long as the score went back-and-forth. The Cougars struggled shooting the ball early hitting just 37 percent (11-for-30) of their shots in the first half. Hannemann and Barone were the bright spots in the first frame scoring 11 points apiece. Barone also sent SXU into the locker room on a high note hitting a 25-foot, running three-pointer to tie the game, 34-34, at the half. Evangel got a monster first half from its season's fourth-leading scorer, junior guard Kelsie Hargus, who hit four three-pointers en route to 18 first-half points.
Saint Xavier came out strong to start the second half going on a 9-2 run to take a 43-36 lead after the first four minutes. However, Evangel scored seven unanswered points, including another three-pointer by Hargus, to tie things up again, 47-47, with 12 minutes to play. The Cougars were able to go ahead by four at times over the next four minutes, but could get no further until Young hit a three-pointer to put her team ahead, 58-53, with just over seven minutes remaining. SXU tied its largest lead of the game at seven, 64-57, after senior center Marquita Smith (Chicago, Ill./Central Methodist/Crane Tech) followed a missed lay-up by Barone with a beautiful tip at the 4:40 mark. Momentum would stay on SXU's side the rest of the way as Young would net the steal and the fast-break lay-up to put the Cougars ahead, 70-59, with three minutes remaining. SXU would hit some big shots and key free throws down the stretch to seal the 10-point decision.
Saint Xavier (30-1 overall/9-1 CCAC) will take on No. 4 seed University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) in second round action on Friday, March 19, at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn. The game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip-off. Cumberlands comes into the game with a 26-8 overall mark and earned its berth into the tournament by winning the Mid-South Conference Tournament.Click here for game stats