Photo by Jeff Vorva
SXU coach Bob Hallberg has a hard time watching as his women's team scored seven points against USF in the fourth quarter on Saturday night.
Just about everyone in the crowd of 550 at the Pat Sullivan center, including the guy the building was named for, was thinking that shot was going in.
St. Xavier’s Kyle Huppe pulled down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds of it matchup with the NAIA’s Division II second-ranked team in the nation, the University of St. Francis. He put up a shot that, if it went in, would have given the unranked Cougars a one-point victory over the Saints.
But the way things were going for SXU in Joliet on Saturday night, it was not meant to be.
Roughly two hours after the Cougars’ No. 1-ranked women’s team dropped a 73-61 decision to the Saints to have their 18-game winning streak snapped, Huppe put up a shot that looked like a game-winner, only to have the ball roll around a couple of times and fall out.
Huppe hit the ground in agony over the missed shot while St. Francis players celebrated its 82-81 victory. And in the stands, longtime former USF coach Sullivan smiled and cheered.
But for St. Xavier, it was not a jolly night in Joliet.
The lousy night, however, isn’t going to derail the Cougars’ attempts at trying to win Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference titles or deep runs in the postseason.
“How rare is it to see a team go undefeated?” asked sophomore guard Kara Krolicki, who had 13 points in the women’s game. “It’s a goal and we all want that and it would be great. But in reality, they came out and played better than us and they deserved this win. We have to realize that things happen and that doesn’t make us a worse team.
“We still have the potential to make a mark this season. It’s not like one game is going to define us.”
The Cougars (18-1 overall and 8-1 in the conference) got out to a 25-14 lead after the first quarter but the Saints chipped away at the lead. SXU had a 54-50 lead heading into the fourth quarter but the Saints outscored the Cougars 23-7 in the final 10 minutes.
“Seven points in the fourth quarter – that’s not us,” Korlicki said. “And it wasn’t just the offense. We weren’t playing the defense we usually play. We made it too easy for them.’’
A couple of former SouthWest Suburban Blue Conference members did the most damage.
Former Homewood-Flossmoor star Charnelle Reed led the Saints with 26 points and added 10 rebounds while former Bolingbrook standout Kamari Jordan had 16 points for the Saints (16-1, 8-0).
Mikayla Leyden led SXU with 19 points.
Hours before the No. 1 NAIA women’s team was knocked off, the No. 1 team in the NAIA men’s division, Indiana Wesleyan, was stunned by Grace College.
St. Francis’s chances of moving into that No. 1 slot, however, were damaged when the Saints dropped a 63-57 decision at Calumet St. Joseph. The Saints (15-2, 7-2) were using this as a game to get back on the right track but trailed most of the game.
“One of the things that was good was that we played well against a very good team,” SXU men’s coach Tom O’Malley said. “I think we had a lead in the game for about 35 minutes. There is such a thing as a loss being a confidence builder. We could say ‘we lost, but we didn’t get beat.’ ’’
Larry Motuzis led the Cougars (10-7, 7-2) with 32 points while Stanley Moore had 13, Tony Core 11 and Quinn Niego 10.
Edvinas Presniakovas led the Saints with 26 points.
Saints coach Ryan Marks, who three years ago was coaching at the Division I level at the University of Texas-Pan American and recruited former Marist star L.J. McIntosh, said he is not worried about missing the No. 1 ranking because of Thursday’s loss.
“There is so much parity at this level,” Marks said. “The national polls are great for the institution and for fans, but it really doesn’t affect us at all. We just want to be up there at the end of the year.’’
Earlier in the week, the Cougars’ women set a school record for best start at 18-0 with an 88-64 road win over Judson on Jan. 5. It also tied the 16-year program’s longest winning streak.
Junior forward Sarah Vozel finished with a season-high 25 points as well as six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Krolicki had 23 points, three rebounds and two assists. Sophomore center Brittany Collins posted 10 points to go along with her team-leading seven rebounds. Senior center Caitlin McMahon and junior guards Sidney Prasse and Leyden each chipped in seven points towards the victory. Defense was also an instrumental component to the victory with Saint Xavier scoring 35 of its 88 points off 27 Judson turnovers.
Last Thursday, the men beat Roosevelt University, 70-64.
Huppe came off the bench to hit four three-pointers en route to a team-leading 16 points.
Sophomore forward Motuzis posted a double-double of 12 points, a game-high 11 rebounds and a career-high four blocks for the Cougars. Senior forward Mitch Uratchko added 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Motuzis also scored 31 points, including a pair of late free throws, in a 75-71 victory over Judson in Elgin on Jan. 5.