JOLIET, Ill. – The fifth-ranked USF women’s basketball team took down top-ranked and defending NAIA Division II National Champion Marian University 71-60 at the Sullivan Center.
In a rematch of last year’s NAIA Division II Final Four matchup, the Saints (1-2) outscored the Knights 41-28 in the second half on their way to the first win of the Steve Brooks era at St. Francis.
Leading by three heading into the fourth quarter, the Saints’ defense clamped down. USF held the Knights (3-1) without a bucket for the first four minutes of the period as a part of an 8-2 run that put St. Francis ahead 61-52. In all, the Saints held Marian to just 2-of-10 from the floor, while forcing six turnovers in the final stanza. Down the stretch, USF’s Kaitlin Aylward (Elmwood Park, Ill./Trinity), Kamari Jordan (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) and Ivana Markovic (Wheaton, Ill./Glenbard South) combined to shoot 8-of-8 from the charity stripe to seal the victory.
Marian held a slight edge for the majority of the first quarter until Jordan capped a 9-1 run with a three-pointer to put USF ahead 14-12. Aylward fueled the spurt with the other six points. Aylward then hit from distance in the final seconds of the period to give USF a 17-16 lead after 10 minutes.
The Saints led by as many as five points early in the second quarter until the Knights closed the half on a 7-2 run and took a 32-30 advantage into the break.
Marian continued its momentum in the second half, jumping ahead to its largest lead at 39-32 with 7:34 to go in the third quarter. USF answered back with a 10-3 run fueled by four different scorers. St. Francis took a 46-44 lead on a Nichole Davidson (South Elgin, Ill./St. Charles North) bucket and did not trail for the remainder of the contest.
Aylward led all scorers with 24 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Davidson chipped in with 13, while Andriana Acosta (Crest Hill, Ill./Joliet Catholic) added 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
As a team, the Saints knocked down 20 of their 24 free-throw attempts. USF also led the rebounding battle 37-24, including 10-2 on the offensive glass.
Dejah Cyrus and Joana Soeiro led Marian with 18 and 17 points respectively.
St. Francis takes on Taylor University at the Sullivan Center on Monday, November 13 at 6:00 p.m.