CHICAGO - A three-pointer by red-shirt freshman guard Sidney Prasse (Naperville, Ill./Benet Academy) with two seconds left in regulation gave No. 9 ranked Saint Xavier University a stunning 80-79 victory over NCAA Division I University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) Friday night at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. With 15 seconds remaining, the host Flames turned the ball over setting the stage for Praase's late-game heroics. SXU head coach Bob Hallberg quickly called a timeout to draw up the game-winning play, which included junior forward Morgan Stuut (Marcellus, Mich./Three Rivers) drawing the defense on a drive down the lane that turned into a kick-out pass to Praase for the final bucket. Stuut led the Cougars with 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
"I'm so proud of our team and the intensity they exhibited over the entire 40 minutes of the game tonight," said Hallberg. "An amazing shot by Sidney Praase, who came in cold off the bench for that final play, and hits the game-winning three-pointer. What a great way to launch her college career after missing her entire freshman season due to injury. This was truly a team effort though with 10 different players contributing for us and everyone keeping their composure against a tough Division I team. What a great way to start our new season."
Saint Xavier had four players score in double figures led by Stuut. Junior guard Suzie Broski (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) hit eight of her 12 shots from the floor for 16 points, while senior point guard Jordan Brandt (Winamac, Ind./Winamac) and sophomore forward Caitlin McMahon (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively. Brandt had a stellar shooting performance Friday hitting five of her six shots, including three of her four three-point attempts. As a team, the Cougars shot 48 percent (28-for-59) from the field and converted an impressive 91 percent (19-for-21) of their free throws.
The Flames led briefly in the opening minutes of play before SXU used a 15-5 scoring run over the game's next seven minutes to build a 19-10 lead with a lay-up by junior forward Margaret Wildner (Oak Lawn, Ill./Mother McAuley) with 8:39 remaining in the first half. The Cougars kept the lead for the rest of the half going ahead by as many as 10 points multiple times before taking a 34-27 advantage into the locker room at halftime. The SXU defense held UIC to just 25 percent (9-for-36) shooting in the opening frame.
As expected, the Flames came out aggressive to start the second half and cut the lead to three, 34-31, behind two quick lay-ups in the first minute. Saint Xavier held its ground and answered with jumpers by McMahon and Broski to push the lead back up to seven, 38-31. SXU extended its lead to 12 points, its largest lead of the night, on a lay-up by Stuut that made it, 53-41. Back-to-back three-pointers by the Flames midway through the second half cut the lead to one, 55-54, and helped lead the charge that saw the game tied, 60-60, with 7:30 to play. UIC used the momentum to build a lead of its own going up by as many as seven points, 71-64, with 4:48 remaining. The Cougars did not falter and got big shots by Stuut, Broski and senior guard Niara Harris (Richton Park, Ill./Robert Morris/Rich South) down the stretch to stay within striking distance. Harris hit a key lay-up with 1:18 left to play that tied the game, 77-77, which helped set up the thrilling final minute of action.
Saint Xavier (1-0 overall) plays its home opener against Trinity International University (Ill.) on Wednesday, November 13. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start. Prior to the game at the Shannon Center in Chicago, Hallberg will become just the sixth women's basketball coach in the nation to have his home court named after him in a 6:50 p.m. ceremony.