AMES, Iowa – Holy Cross women's basketball senior guard Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.) hit a running jumper as time expired to help lead the Crusaders to a 51-49 triumph over St. Louis in the second game of the Cyclone Challenge on Sunday afternoon at the Hilton Coliseum. With the win, Holy Cross improves to 8-3 on the season, while the Billikens fall to 5-8 overall. Through 11 games, this is the best start for the Crusaders since the 2001-2002 season.
The Crusaders held the 49-44 lead with less than two minutes left in the second half, but a key three-pointer by St. Louis' Desirae Ball cut the margin to two points (49-47) with 1:18 on the clock. The Crusaders failed to convert on the next possession and a foul by Holy Cross sent St. Louis to the line for a one-and-one. The first Billiken free throw missed, but an offensive rebound kept the possession for St. Louis. With 23 seconds left on the clock, the Billikens knotted the score at 49-49 on a layup by Olivia Jakubicek. The Crusaders called a timeout with 4.2 ticks on the clock and set up a play for Malone. After catching the inbounds pass, she drove the ball into the lane and lofted a floater off the glass and into the basket as the final buzzer sounded.
Holy Cross got off to a hot start in the contest, as it gained the early 8-3 advantage at the 17:37 mark of the first half. St. Louis, however, went on an 8-0 rally over the next 2:48 to go on top 11-8 with 14:33 on the clock. The Crusaders used a pair of buckets by junior forward Emily Parker (Johnston, Iowa) and sophomore forward Raquel Scott (Ridgewood, N.J.) to grab the 12-11 edge (11:32), but a 6-2 spurt by the Billikens gave them with 17-12 lead with 5:36 left in the stanza.
After Holy Cross senior guard Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) canned a trey to end the St. Louis rally, Malone connected on a pair of free-throws to tie the score at 17-17 (2:43). The Billikens hit a three-pointer on the other end to go on top by three, but four straight points by Malone to end the half gave the Crusaders the 21-20 lead at intermission. Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, as Holy Cross hit 25.0 percent of its shots (7 of 28), while St. Louis was limited to 22.0 percent shooting (9 of 41).
In the second half, the Crusaders kept the lead until St. Louis tied the score at 28-28 with 15:56 on the clock. Over the next 7:36, both teams went back and forth as there were four lead changes and three knotted scores, but Holy Cross would gain the 39-38 lead with 8:20 left in the second half. After the squads traded buckets to advance the score the 41-40 (6:24), the Crusaders embarked on a 6-0 rally to increase the advantage to 47-40 with 3:54 left in regulation. The Billikens, however, scored on back-to-back possessions to cut the deficit to 49-44, which set the stage for the dramatic conclusion.
Holy Cross was led offensively by Parker, who scored a team-best 13 points and also tied a career-high with four blocked shots. Malone tallied 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Scott recorded 10 points and eight boards. Smith totaled eight points and tied a season-best with seven helpers, while sophomore center Molly Hourigan (Memphis, N.Y) registered six points, eight caroms and three blocked shots. Saint Louis was led by Ball (game-best 15 points) and Jakubicek (nine points and game-best 13 rebounds).
The Crusaders connected on 33.3 percent of their shots from the field (19 of 57), while they limited the Billikens to 29.0 percent shooting on the afternoon (18 of 62). Holy Cross hit three of its 19 shots from behind the arc (15.8 percent), while St. Louis canned 22.2 percent from downtown (4 of 18). The Crusaders went 10 of 13 from the free throw line (76.9 percent), while the Billikens shot 81.8 percent from the charity stripe (9 of 11). Holy Cross held advantages in points in the paint (30-22), points off turnovers (11-5), blocked shots (7-2) and fast-break points (7-2).
Holy Cross will return to action on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, when it will begin Patriot League play at home versus Boston University at 7:00 p.m.