CHICAGO – When two long-time conference rivals face off head-to-head, there is always a lot at stake. This has been true for the many match-ups over the years between Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) foes Saint Xavier University and University of St. Francis (Ill.) in a number of different sports. However, the stakes are bit higher than just conference bragging rights and another win on a perfect record when the two women's basketball teams face off this Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Shannon Center in Chicago. SXU comes into tomorrow's game sporting the NAIA's No. 3 national ranking and has a perfect 16-0 record with its closest game this season a 10-point road win (81-71) over Taylor University (Ind.). USF owns the NAIA's top rank, also boasts an unblemished 15-0 mark and has an 80-69 road win over NCAA Division II opponent Lewis University (Ill.) on its résumé. Outside of the Cougars and Fighting Saints, the Fire of Southeastern University (Fla.) is the only other team at the NAIA Division II level of women's basketball with a perfect record (13-0) entering Saturday's games.
"Saint Xavier and St. Francis has become a tremendous rivalry across all of our sports and women's basketball is no exception," said SXU women's basketball coach Bob Hallberg. "This year, we are not only the top two teams in the CCAC, but two of the top three teams in the nation. Both teams have been looking forward to this game and everyone will be ready to play. It should be extremely entertaining!"
The Cougars have a solid track record when facing off against the NAIA's top-ranked team. In seven previous meetings against the No. 1 squad, Saint Xavier owns a 3-4 all-time record. In its history against the Saints, SXU has fared even better with an impressive 29-9 series record dating back to the first meeting on January 25, 2001. Both teams have been battle tested this season with each a perfect 3-0 against NAIA Top 25 foes.
Saint Xavier enters the game ranked No. 3 in the nation in scoring offense averaging 88.7 points per game. The Cougars are also tough defensively allowing the opposition just 57.8 points a game, which ranks No. 14 across the NAIA. St. Francis ranks No. 15 nationally in scoring offense per game (77.9) and No. 18 in scoring defense (57.9). SXU is led in scoring by junior guard Kara Krolicki (Mokena, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) averaging a CCAC-leading 20.9 points per game, while USF is led by senior guard Charnelle Reed at 15.4 points a game. Junior center Brittany Collins (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West) leads the Cougars and the CCAC on the boards averaging 9.4 rebounds per game, while Reed leads the Saints with an 8.4 rebounding average.