Women's Basketball - Sat, Nov. 13, 2004
DeKalb, Ill. - Despite a career-high four three-pointers and 13 points by freshman guard Sarah Wilson (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South), the No. 24 ranked Saint Xavier University women's basketball team could not keep pace with NCAA Division I opponent Northern Illinois University falling, 76-42, in its season opener Saturday at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill.

In addition to Wilson, junior forward Jacki DiMaggio (Bartlett, Ill./Glenbard North) also scored in double figures for SXU with 12 points, while leading the Cougars in rebounding as well with 11. Northern Illinois outscored Saint Xavier 46-10 in the paint and outshot the Cougars 20-6 at the free-throw stripe. SXU shot just 25 percent (15-for-60) from the field and 21 percent (6-for-28) from three-point range in the game.

Saint Xavier took its first lead of the game at the 17:23 mark of the first half when junior guard Jen Belmonte (Darien, Ill./Hinsdale South) made a lay-up to give the Cougars a 2-1 advantage. SXU continued to battle the Huskies over the game's next six minutes using key three-pointers by senior guard Sara Zembrzuski (Lockport, Ill./Lockport) and Wilson to keep the score close.

However, at the 11:39 mark of the first half, Northern Illinois began a 7-0 run, which built the Huskies a 15-8 lead over the next two minutes. The Cougars clawed back and a three-pointer by Wilson with 8:43 remaining cut the NIU lead to two, 15-13. Unfortunately for Saint Xavier, foul trouble became a problem early with three players collecting three fouls apiece and allowing the Huskies 22 first-half free-throw attempts. Northern Illinois took full advantage outscoring SXU 21-7 to close out the remaining eight minutes of the half and headed into the halftime break with a 36-20 advantage.

Senior forward Rachel Merkell (Munster, Ind./Munster) picked up her fourth foul of the game just 10 seconds into the second half and NIU began to pound the ball into the post in her absence. Back-to-back three pointers by sophomore guard Dani Engleman (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest) and Wilson, respectively, brought the Cougars to within 14, 40-26, with 17 minutes remaining in regulation. However, three straight jumpers in the low post by NIU freshman forward Nikita Odom over the next minute put the Huskies back up by 20, 46-26.

SXU had trouble handling Odom the rest of the game as she scored all of her game-high 18 points on 9-for-10 shooting from the field. At the 10:16 mark, a lay-up by freshman guard Whitney Lowe gave Northern Illinois a 62-32 lead, and less than a minute later, Merkell fouled out of the game for the Cougars with her fifth foul. DiMaggio was able to convert a rare four-point play with 7:42 remaining to cut the lead to 23, 63-40, but that was as close as SXU would get the rest of the way.

Saint Xavier (0-1 overall) will play its home opener on Tuesday, November 16, against Trinity Christian College (Ill.) for a non-conference match-up at the Shannon Center in Chicago. Game time is set for 6 p.m.