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SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Saint Francis women's basketball coach Gary Andrews possesses multiple answers to questions that may arise for his team throughout the next few days at the NAIA Division II National Tournament. But for Siena Heights, Friday's 83-59 thumping by the Cougars demonstrated that very few teams will have the answers to what dilemmas top-ranked Saint Francis poses for them.
“We have as good of a threesome as anybody in the country,” Andrews said afterward.
He's not exaggerating.
Saint Francis has as much quickness in senior guard Skylarr Shurn as any other team, as much interior versatility and athleticism in sophomore Brooke Ridley, and as much of a perimeter threat in senior guard Jenelle Wilson. For the opposition, it's a “pick your poison” proposition.
The Cougars (35-0) were so dominant against the Saints (26-9) that what got lost in the playing of the game was the fact that this was in the Sweet 16 round of the national tournament, and it was an absolute blowout.
“We wanted to attack the basket,” Shurn explained. “(Coach Andrews) has been emphasizing that a lot. And we wanted to get out on the break.”
Whether it was “out on the break” or within the half court, Saint Francis, particularly Shurn and Ridley simply couldn't be guarded.
With just over 12 minutes remaining in the game the two Cougars had outscored Siena Heights in its entirety 38-34, as Saint Francis held a comfortable 56-34 advantage.
“Brooke got us going,” Andrews said. “Brooke was awesome. Sky was awesome. Jenelle was awesome.”
Shurn finished with 27 points, as Andrews eventually called off the Cougar starters and dipped into his bench. Ridley finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Wilson dropped 3 of her 4 3-point shots on the Saints en route to 16 points.
The Cougars methodically pulled away and senior center Kalah Baer sent the Cougars into the locker room possessing not only a 40-28 margin, but all of the momentum, as well.
As the first half wound down, Siena Heights was hoping to get a defensive stop to end the half, but Baer sealed her defender, spun around her and flipped the ball off of the backboard and in to end the half.
Saint Francis was never threatened during the final 20 minutes.
“In the second half, we really talked about expanding on that lead and trying to make the first punch,” Shurn said.
Saint Francis also got production from Paige Frisch (seven boards), as well as Baer (seven points, eight rebounds).
Each victory by Saint Francis sets a new school record for wins, while the victory places the Cougars in the round of Elite Eight for the 10th time in program history and second consecutive season.
The Cougars will face Southwestern (Kansas) (30-4) today at 2 p.m. (EST). Southwestern advanced to Saturday's round by beating Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) 112-107 in overtime. It was the highest scoring game in national tournament history.
“I hope they are really, really tired,” Andrews laughed.
The man with all of the answers can usually relax.