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St. Joseph earns 10th trip to NCAA Tournament
Posted: Monday March 01, 1999 08:25 PM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- It was the run-and-gun offense against the Atlantic 10's best defense. Score one for the defense.
Susan Moran scored 15 of her 24 points in the second half as St. Joseph's defeated Xavier, 85-73, on Monday night to win the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Championship and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
But the score did not indicate the reason for the Hawks' win. Even St. Joseph's coach Stephanie Gaitley was shocked by her team's offensive output.
"Eighty-five points, when will you ever see that," asked Gaitley, who has guided her team to the NCAAs four times in the last six years. "It was a battle of philosophies, but we controlled the tempo."
When asked whether a 85-point output and slowing down the offense weren't opposites, Gaitley disagreed.
"We knew we couldn't walk it up every time," she said. "We had to take advantage of the opportunities they were giving us offensively. But we slowed it down to the point where we could control the tempo."
Moran added eight rebounds for the Hawks (22-7), who win the A-10 tournament for the second time in three years and return to the NCAA tournament for the 10th time. Jana Lichnerova had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Angela Zampella added 15 points and nine assists and Melissa Coursey netted 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc for St. Joseph's, which beat the Musketeers for the second time in eight days and enter the NCAAs on an 11-game win streak.
Xavier, which played for the fourth straight day, got 17 points from Nicole Levandusky, 14 points and eight assists from Nikki Kremer and 13 points from Jennifer Phillips. The Musketeers seem to have a good chance at gaining an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament after beating top-seeded Virginia Tech in the semifinals and winning six of their last eight games.
"We dug ourselves into a hole in the first half," Xavier coach Melanie Balcomb said of her team's first-half performance when the Musketeers turned the ball over 10 times. "We like to play up tempo, but they wouldn't allow that. We knew we could score, but we couldn't get the stops defensively."
The Hawks established a double-digit lead when they went on a 15-2 run over 6:19 in the first half. During that stretch, the Musketeers turned the ball over five times as five different Hawks scored.
Xavier did make a comeback early in the second half, cutting the deficit to six thanks to a 7-0 run that was paced by Levandusky's five points. But St. Joseph's then ran off 10 straight points, opening up a 50-34 lead when Lichnerova buried a rare trey. Although the Musketeers would get as close as five with 2:03 left, the Hawks hit their free throws down the stretch, making nine from the stripe to go on an 11-3 run.
When the lead got down to five, Gaitley used a timeout to calm down her team.
"I saw a little nervousness, but we took that timeout to tell them to smile and think like they were back in our gym," Gaitley said. "Every time they countered, we countered whether it was a defensive stop or a basket." The two teams combined for 18 3-pointers, setting a tournament record. The previous high was 17 set in 1991 in a game between Penn State and West Virginia.
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