USF uses strong start to beat Holy Cross

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JOLIET – The final score doesn’t always reflect the way things happened throughout the majority of the game.

That was the case Wednesday when the University of St. Francis women’s basketball team played Holy Cross College in a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference game at the Sullivan Center.

USF, which is ranked No. 11 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II poll, dominated for three quarters and led by as many as 32 points before Holy Cross closed the gap in the fourth quarter. But the Saints held their ground and settled for a 59-50 victory.

While the final score may have been closer than USF (24-4, 19-1) would have liked, the bottom line was that a strong start helped the team win for the 22nd time in its past 23 games against NAIA competition.

And just as important, the Saints remained a half-game behind No. 8 Saint Xavier with two games remaining in league play. USF’s last home game is against Trinity International on Saturday, and the final game is Wednesday against Saint Xavier.

“We were up by 30 with our top nine kids, and they did a lot of good things,” Saints coach Steve Brooks said. “The disappointing thing for everyone is that everyone wants to play, and everybody works hard to play, and when you get the opportunity to play, you have to step up and show, and we didn’t do that with the younger kids.

“But before that, our girls did really good and defended the way that we wanted to defend. They had a couple of kids who are bigger than what we have and are a physical team. I like the way Sha [Shadrian McDaniel] played; it was extremely hard both offensively and defensively; she stepped up. And Paige [Gieseke] was more active in the second half and did some really good things.”

The Saints used a 16-0 run in the second quarter to take control of the game, and they led, 12-7, after one quarter. A 22-6 cushion in that quarter led to a 34-13 USF halftime lead.

That decisive run featured six points from Andriana Acosta, who came off the bench to score a game-high 16 points. Four others added points to help break things open.

USF took a 57-25 lead with 1:12 left in the third quarter after a layup by Kaitlin Aylward (seven points) and still led 57-31 going into the last quarter. Other top scorers were Leah Sims (10 points), Shadrian McDaniel (nine points) and Paige Gieseke (six points) and Jordan Pyle (six points).