Joe Gorby, Sports Information Director
JOLIET – In a battle of nationally-ranked women’s basketball teams, #16th-ranked University of St. Francis was unable to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit to #13 Clarke (Iowa) en route to being dealt a 78-72 home non-conference setback this Tuesday (Nov. 10) evening at USF’s Sullivan Center.
The Saints (2-1), who were coming off an impressive 56-48 home victory over #3 Marian (Ind.) this last Saturday (Nov. 7) to win their own season-opening USF Catholic Classic title, trailed by as many as 12 points on three occasions but managed to close to within four points (67-63) with 4:31 remaining in the contest. Clarke (1-0) was able to push its lead back to seven points (70-63) at the 3:36 mark only to have USF cut its deficit down to four at 72-68 with just a second under the two-minute mark. However, the Pride proceeded to stretch their lead up to seven points (76-69) with 16 seconds to go and held on for the win despite a half-court three-pointer off the glass from guard Leah Sims (SR/Chicago, Ill.)as the final horn sounded.
Clarke led 21-19 after the opening quarter, but the Saints would outscore Clarke by two points in the second quarter to pull into a 37-all halftime tie. USF hit on 58.3 percent (7-12) of its shots from the floor in quarter number two, which consisted six ties.
The start of the second half saw Clarke gain the lead for the first four-plus minutes before a five straight USF points knotted the game up at 45-apiece with 5:36 on the clock. Clarke would go on to score the next four points in the third quarter and though a Leah Sims’ three-pointer trimmed the Pride’s lead to a point (49-48) at the 4:26 mark, the visitors would reel off five unanswered points to lead 54-48 with just under two minutes remaining in the frame.
Clarke wound up the win column despite shooting only 37.3 percent (25-67) from the floor in comparison to the Saints’ 45.8 percent (27-59).
A key factor in the game was on the boards as Clarke dominated USF by owning a 53-26 rebounding advantage as the Pride grabbed 21 offensive boards, leading to a 27-5 margin in second chance scoring.
The Saints shot 44 percent (7-18) from three-point territory, but struggled at the free throw line making seven-of-15 (46.7%) attempts.
Meanwhile, Clarke hit 21-of-24 (87.5%) shots from the charity stripe to go with seven-of-18 (38.9%) three-point shooting.
The Saints were led by Leah Sims’ game-high 23 points, which included five treys. Forward Jordan Pyle (JR/Traralgon, Australia) added 15 points and a squad-most six rebounds while guard-forward Josie Graffeo (SO/Manteno, Ill.) chipped in 11 points, which featured a three-of-four performance from beyond the three-point line.
On the opposite side, Clarke placed four players in double-figure scoring led by Nicole McDermott’s 17 points off the bench. Makenna Haase had arguably the top performance by anyone with a double-double on 15 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, which featured nine on the offensive glass.
The Saints continue their season-opening homestand this Saturday (Nov. 14) taking on Trinity Christian in a non-league encounter at the Sullivan Center. Game time is set for a 1 p.m. (CT) start.