SLU Women Come Up Short Against Xavier

ST. LOUIS — Saint Louis University women's basketball coach Shimmy Gray-Miller emerged from her team's locker room on Saturday night proud of the Billikens' effort after watching them battle Xavier.

"They played hard and they were intense and they were passionate and they played Billiken basketball for 40 minutes," Gray-Miller said.

Saint Louis led by three points with 2 minutes remaining, but lost 70-67 against the Atlantic 10 Conference leading Musketeers at Chaifetz Arena after being outscored 9-3 the rest of the way.

"It's devastating, especially when you feel that in your heart you deserve to win a game, "Gray-Miller said. It's absolutely heart-breaking."

Saint Louis fell to 11-16 overall and 5-7 in conference play. No. 16 Xavier improved to 24-4 overall and 12-0 in league play with its 15th consecutive victory. The Musketeers have won 11 straight games against SLU.

Junior center Amanda Kemezys tied a career-high with 22 points, scoring 11 in each half and converting eight of her nine free throw attempts.

"She is a beast," Gray-Miller said. "She's a beast. And in my opinion, Amanda Kemezys is the best post player in the Atlantic 10 Conference because she does it on both ends. She doesn't rely on her size or her strength. She relies on her skill and her hard work. Supposedly, (Xavier's) Ta'Shia Phillips has been touted as the best post player in our conference and I think she's a heck of a player, but I think Amanda outplayed her from beginning to end. Amanda Kemezys is the best post player in the Atlantic 10 Conference and I think she proves it night in and night out."

Junior guard Theresa Lisch had 16 points, a career-high nine assists and eight rebounds. Her 3-pointer with 2:04 remaining gave the Billikens a 64-61 lead.

"Other teams do a lot of things to counter Theresa's scoring," Gray-Miller said. "They bump her. They are physical with her. I just think she finds other ways to help her team win, whether it's rebounding, whether it's defensively or whether it's her assists. Theresa knows when it's time for her to step up and she did that at the end when the team needed her the most."

Tudy Reed led Xavier with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Ta'Shia Phillips added 15 points and nine rebounds and Jerri Taylor chipped in with 13 points, including four 3-pointers.

Saint Louis U., which was coming off a 63-43 victory at Rhode Island, was up to the task in the first half. Playing with energy than they displayed in recent home losses to Charlotte and George Washington, the Billikens were able to take a 36-31 lead into halftime after a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes.

Kemezys, who struggled in the last home game against George Washington, led Saint Louis with 11 points in the first half, despite picking up two fouls in the first two minutes and only playing six minutes in the first half. She made all seven of her free throw attempts.

As a team, the Billikens shot 50 percent in the first half (12 of 24), including 3-pointers from junior guard Katie Paganelli and freshman guard Janisha Gearlds, and converted 10 of 12 free throw attempts.

Xavier struggled shooting the ball in the first half. The Musketeers made 32 percent of their shot attempts (eight of 25) and 61.1 percent of their free throw attempts (11 of 18).

The second half started out much better for Xavier than the first half ended.

The Musketeers opened the second half with an 8-2 run to take a 39-38 advantage. After SLU rallied, X reeled off 11 unanswered points to take a 55-47 lead with 7:31 remaining.

Saint Louis led 64-61 with 2:04 left on a 3-pointer from Lisch, but Xavier scored the next seven points. Reed put the Musketeers ahead 66-64 on a basket inside with 21.4 seconds left and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Phillips put back the offensive rebound for a 68-64 lead with 19 seconds left.

After SLU's Lauren Woods scored inside with 9.4 seconds remaining, Taylor made one of two free throws to put Xavier ahead 69-66 with 8.5 seconds left.

Lisch was fouled with 4.6 seconds left. She made the first free throw, to cut the deficit to 69-67, and then missed the second intentionally. Reed grabbed the rebound for Xavier and was fouled with 3 seconds left.

Reed made her first free throw, to make it 70-67, but after she missed the second the Billikens were unable to corral the rebound and get off another shot.

"I'm just really proud of the effort that our team just showed," Kemezys said. "We feel like we won that game and we were the better team. We are the better team, not just how we play, but the way we carry ourselves, the way that we play. The intensity and poise and the respect that we play with. I'll take that team any day."

Gray-Miller thought several things went against her team in the final 2 minutes.

"I thought Amanda boxed the kid out on the free throw and I thought the kid went over Amanda's back for the putback on the free throw that they did not call," Gray-Miller said. "I thought that Goody (Alisha Goodwin) did a great job of going for a loose ball the way that she's been taught and I thought that was a cheap foul that she picked up. I thought that was obviously a turning point in the game because the kid shot the free throws.

"I thought at the end, we executed. They fouled. We made the first free throw as we were supposed to. Theresa was instructed to miss the second one. She did a great job. We put ourselves in position to get the rebound. We did no get the rebound but the kid traveled. I thought the kid traveled and that call was not made. It's unfortunate, but sometimes you do everything right and you still fall short and it's a valuable life lesson that my kids learned today."

Kemezys said the Billikens showed what they are capable of.

"Consistency isn't something our team is defined by, but I think when we play like this — we've had a couple other games like Wyoming and I can't think of some others — but we've played hard and we've showed the type of team that we are capable of being," the junior center said. "We just said in the locker room that if we can play this way from here on out, then team's better be scared. We're just looking forward to meeting Xavier in that conference tournament."

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