SLU Women Lose Season Opener

ST. LOUIS — The season opener for the Saint Louis University women's basketball team began with standout sophomore guard Theresa Lisch on the sidelines with her left arm in a sling.

The Billikens were able to overcome that setback to lead for much of their game against visiting Hampton, but down the stretch the Lady Pirates were able to take advantage of SLU's turnovers, inexperience and lack of depth.

After a late comeback sent the teams to overtime, Hampton shut out Saint Louis in the 5 minute extra period and came away with a 71-57 road victory on Sunday afternoon at Bauman-Eberhardt Center.

"We're going to get better," SLU coach Shimmy Gray-Miller said. "Just like I told the kids, we played better today. Hampton is not a bad team. We lost to a good team, a good senior-laden team. So we played hard and we're going to get better and it's not the end of the world."

Lisch, the Billikens' leading scorer last season, is out for four to six weeks after breaking the fifth metacarpal in her left hand. That means a Saint Louis (0-1) squad that was going to have to rely on five sophomores and two freshmen is now without it's go-to player.

"This should be an exciting time for these kids," Gray-Miller said, "because kids that have never been asked to step up before are now being asked to step up."

Lisch's absence was a problem on Sunday as the Billikens turned the ball over 29 times, with most of those turnovers being unforced by the Hampton defense.

"I'm not making excuses and I hope it doesn't sound like that, but it's really indicative of what we're dealing with right now," Gray-Miller said. "We have a very, very young and inexperienced team. … They're still sophomores. They panic. They freak out. They still see things that aren't there. They're still 19-year-old kids. Then you throw into the mix freshmen with that."

For much of the game, it looked like Hampton's inability to convert free throws would let the Billikens escape with a victory. The Lady Pirates (2-0) made 42.9 percent (three of seven) of their free throws in the first half, 59.1 percent (13 of 22) in the second half and then 75 percent (nine of 12) in overtime.

"We knew that we were going to make them down the stretch," said Hampton coach Walter Mebane, whose team defeated Georgetown 52-50 in Friday's season opener. "We kept emphasizing that to the players. We told them we believed in them and that we believed when it counted they were going to make them. As proof, down the stretch, that's exactly what happened."

Hampton led for the first time with 8:08 remaining when Chinyere Ukoh scored inside to make it 49-48. But the Billikens used a 6-0 run of free throws to lead 54-49 with 5:44 left in the game.

Hampton took a 57-55 lead with 32 seconds remaining on two free throws by Ashlee Finley, who came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points.

SLU was able to tie the score with 8 seconds remaining when senior guard Hayley Leake drove through the lane and dropped a soft layup over the front of the rim.

But that was the last time the Billikens would score.

Hampton wasn't able to get another shot off in regulation, but the Lady Pirates dominated the overtime period. Artavia Burns scored eight of her 10 points in overtime, as Hampton outscored SLU 14-0 for the win.

"They've got a great program and a great team," Mebane said. "It was a difficult opportunity for us to come in here, but obviously we're pleased."

SLU's lack of depth caught up with the Billikens in overtime. Sophomore guard Katie Paganelli, who had a team-high 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds, played 41 minutes. Senior guard Jackie Gilbert played 41 minutes. Senior guard Hayley Leake, who added nine points, played 40 minutes. Sophomore center Amanda Kemezys, who had 11 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, played 32 minutes.

"Our kids were tired," Gray-Miller said. "They're tired. … The way we play defense, even out zone defense, it's not like we just come and sit down and not work hard. Our style of play wears you down."

The Billikens return to action on Wednesday when they play at Akron.

"If we don't improve on Wednesday, then this loss will hurt a lot more," Gray-Miller said. "I don't think that's going to happen. I like the character of these kids. We're going to get better."

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