CHICAGO - Freshman guard/forward Morgan Stuut (Marcellus, Mich./Three Rivers) scored a career-high 28 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead No. 15 ranked and No. 2 seeded Saint Xavier University to a 79-65 win over No. 4 seed Robert Morris University capturing its fourth straight Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Women's Basketball Tournament Championship Saturday afternoon at the Shannon Center in Chicago. In fact, the SXU women's basketball program has now won eight of the last 10 conference tournament titles. With the victory, the Cougars earn an automatic bid to the 32nd Annual Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, which begins on Wednesday, March 14, at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky.
Stuut was one of four Saint Xavier players to score in double figures in Saturday's big win. Senior guard Marissa Young (Monroe, Wis./St. Joseph's College/Monroe) tallied 17 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists, while Suzie Broski (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) dropped in 15 points with six rebounds. Senior forward Mary Kusner (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West) was also key for the Cougars hitting five of her seven shot attempts in the game for 12 points and nine rebounds. The Eagles got 15 points from sophomore guard Celeste Jones, while junior guard Aubrey Sparrey came off the bench to score 12.
The Cougars looked sharp early in the first half jumping out to an 11-4 lead in the game's first four minutes behind seven quick points for Stuut. RMU would fight back and a three-pointer by Sparrey would tie the game, 15-15, with 11:37 to play in the first half. Kusner helped spark another surge for the Cougars later in the frame with a couple of lay-ups off offensive rebounds to put SXU back ahead by seven, 32-25, with just under five minutes left in the half. The momentum helped Saint Xavier take a 42-37 lead into halftime after shooting 50 percent (16-for-32) from the field and holding a 26-11 rebounding advantage in the frame.
The Eagles used a 10-0 run early in the second half to erase the Cougars' halftime lead and go ahead, 47-44, with just under 15 minutes to play. Saint Xavier would not be outdone and went on a 14-2 run capped by a lay-up by Stuut to take back the lead and build a nine-point cushion, 58-49, with 10:37 remaining. Robert Morris would cut it to a pair, 65-63, at the 6:50 mark on a lay-up by senior guard Christina Barnett. However, the Cougars had one last spurt with Broski scoring four points to lead a 9-0 charge to pull away for good. SXU was tough on the boards in Saturday's championship out-rebounding RMU, 51-31.
Saint Xavier (23-8 overall) will now take its automatic bid to the 32nd Annual Division I Women's Basketball National Championship in Frankfort, Ky. It is the 10thstraight national berth for the program dating back to the 2002-03 season. The final rankings and national tournament seeds will be released by the NAIA national office on Wednesday, March 7.