JOLIET – Just two days after knocking off top-ranked Marian University, the last thing that the University of St. Francis women’s basketball team expected was to find itself down 10 points early in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against Taylor University.
Taylor used a 16-2 run to end the third quarter and were ahead 51-41 with 9:02 remaining.
But after scoring just two points up to that time, Fighting Saints senior Kamari Jordan and her teammates were determined to give the Trojans everything they had the rest of the way. Jordan’s 14 points in the final 8:37 helped USF to a 22-7 run as it rallied for a 63-58 victory at the Sullivan Center.
The Saints’ (2-2) leading scorer was Nichole Davidson, who tied for game-high honors with 23 points, while adding six rebounds. Davidson scored 16 points in the first half to help USF to a 32-29 lead. Ivana Markovic, who played all 40 minutes, contributed 15 points, while Andriana Acosta added six points and nine rebounds.
“Kamari got two fouls early, so she had to get back into the flow of the game, and when she did, it was big for us,” Saints coach Steve Brooks said. “I’m really proud of them, since we had kids who were throwing up at halftime.
“Taylor is a 3-point shooting team, and we knew that they’d make enough 3s to make it interesting. We’re not clicking on all cylinders, but our kids showed perseverance, and I’m proud of Kamari’s effort. Basketball is a game of runs and we gave them a run, but then we had a little bit of a run ourselves, and we got the stops when we needed to get them.”
Kendall Bradbury, who led Taylor (2-4) with 23 points and eight rebounds, made two free throws with 9:02 left to give the visitors their largest lead of the night at 10 points. USF responded with a 3-pointer from Markovic, layups from Jordan and Davidson and two free throws and a 3-pointer from Jordan to close to within 54-53 with 3:31 remaining.
The Saints moved in front at 58-56 with 1:26 left on an old-fashioned three-point play from Jordan and after Aubrey Wright tied it on two free throws 24 seconds later, Jordan hit a jumper with 41 seconds to go to put her tea in front for good. Down the stretch, Davidson hit a free throw while Jordan added two more.
“My team trusted me and put the ball in my hands,” said Jordan, who had six assists. “They ran plays for me and expected me to hit shots and that’s what I did. In the first half, Nichole came out on fire, and if she does that, I have no problem passing her the ball every single time. For me, if I had zero points in the first half and we were doing what we were supposed to do, I was fine. In the final quarter, we took our senior leadership and coaching staff and said, ‘hey, we got to get it together as a team and we got stops and hit shots.”
Things started out very well for USF as Davidson collected her team’s initial 12 points and had 14 in the opening 10 minutes to help the hosts grab a 19-10 lead after one quarter.
“I had my team there to support me by being positive so that I was aggressive to the basket,” Davidson said. “We definitely played as a team, stuck through it and worked until the end. We responded after being down by 10 points and learned a lot about working as a team. We’re coming together and now that we’re seeing the results of playing as a team, there’s good outcomes and I’m impressed with how each individual is making progress.”
Taylor pulled to within 32-29 at halftime and used a 7-0 run to start the third quarter. After the Saints answered with a 7-0 burst of their own to go up 39-36 following a three-pointer from Markovic, the Trojans closed out the quarter with a 14-2 spurt to grab a 49-41 advantage.
“We just had to come together as a unit since that’s not what we were doing in the third quarter,” Markovic said. “We did and made a run back at them. Hopefully we keep building on the last two games. We have so many new opportunities to learn from each other.”