(Notre Dame, Ind.) The Saints returned to the hardwood on Saturday afternoon hosting the 6th ranked Tigers of Olivet Nazarene University. Coming off a tough road loss at cross-town rival IUSB on Thursday, the Saints came out with an extremely aggressive and efficient offense that had the Tigers on their toes until the final horn was sounded. In the end, the Tigers were able to hold off the Saints 89-84.
A fast start got the Saints in rhythm as they were able to get stops against the fast paced run and gun Tiger offense. Lindsey Steffen (Nappanee, Ind.) finished off a 12-to-4 opening run for the Saints with a layup forcing a timeout from the 6th ranked Tigers.
The Tigers offense wouldn't be held in check for long however, as an 11-to-2 ensuing run gave them their first lead of the game at 15-14 with 11:02 remaining in the first half.
The back-and-fourth up-tempo style of play continued throughout the half with the Saints fighting to match the Tigers offensive outpour. Just the second three-point field goal make of the half for the Tigers extended their lead to 7 points with 3:26 left to play.
Kari Barnes (Fort Wayne, Ind.) knocked down a jumper to bring the Tiger lead to just four points before Miranda Geever made a shot as time expired to give Olivet a six point halftime lead.
The Saints did an excellent job in the half of knocking down free-throws and contesting the three-pointers from Olivet. The Tigers hit only 2-of-14 from beyond the arc after one.
With the second half underway, the back-and-forth offensive outpour continued. After falling behind by nine points early in the half, the Saints offense continued to answer as they cut the Tigers lead to just two points with 10:56 left in the game.
Still trailing 64-62, Olivet opened up a 9-to-0 run giving them their largest lead of the game at 73-62. Once again, the Saints fought back. A 14-to-4 Saints run was capped off with a three-pointer from senior Lauren Malinowski (Dearborn Heights, Mich.) that trimmed the Tigers lead to just one with 4:00 minutes remaining.
After forcing a turnover, the Saints gave the ball back to the Tigers who in turn built the lead back up to six points. The Saints continued to answer down the stretch, only to see the Tigers do the same. They would cut the lead down to two points with just over a minute remaining, but would not be able to get any closer. The Tigers held on to defeat the Saints 89-84 in one of the most exciting and entertaining games at McKenna Arena this season.
"This team today, despite all of the things that have been going on lately, showed how determined they were to not give in," said Saints assistant coach Clem Litka. "There were times when we got down by double figures but still fought back. The resolve this team showed today makes you proud as a coach."
Francesca McCarthy (Terre Haute, Ind.) led the Saints with a 19 point and 11 rebound double-double. Lindsey Steffen notched her sixth double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds while Lauren Malinowski fell just short with 12 points and 9 assists.
The Saints held the Tigers, who average 100 points-per-game on the year, to 89 points and a modest 19.4% (7-of-36) from beyond the arc. In turn, the Saints shot 55.9% (33-of-59) from the field and 83.3% (15-of19) from the charity stripe.
The Saints, 7-14 (3-10 CCAC), will hit the road to Chicago, Illinois to take on Roosevelt University on Wednesday, January 16th. The next home contest will be on Wednesday, January 23rd against Cardinal Stritch University. Tip-off for that will be at 5:30 p.m. EST.