Aaliyah Irby knocked down a jumper with one second remaining Wednesday to give Robert Morris (Ill.) a 91-89 women’s basketball win over St. Ambrose, but that wasn’t the shot that made the difference at Lee Lohman Arena.
There were 13 of them, missed opportunities at the line, that denied the Queen Bees an opportunity to win a third straight game for the third time this season.
"Free throws matter," St. Ambrose coach Krista Van Hauen said. "We had plenty of chances to win this game at the line. That was the difference in the game. You can’t miss 13 free throws and expect to win."
St. Ambrose did hit 31 of them, attempting 44 in a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference game that saw the teams whistled for a combined 54 fouls that led to a combined 66 attempts at the foul line.
The Eagles connected on 17 of their 24 attempts as well but needed to hit 12-of-18 shots from the field in the fourth quarter to rally in the final seven minutes.
Coming after the Queen Bees had effectively blended zones to limit Robert Morris to 12-of-45 shooting in the second and third quarters, the Eagles’ 66.7-percent touch over the final 10 minutes erased six-point leads that had opened on four occasions early in the quarter, the last on a Hailey Cook score with 7 minutes, 6 seconds remaining.
"We’ve had trouble finishing games, and again, we didn’t get the stops we needed down the stretch," Van Hauen said. "I felt like we did a good job on their go-to player (Jannah Mahmoud). We let some other players hurt us."
Mahmoud finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but Alondra Chavarria led the Eagles (8-9, 5-4 CCAC) with 21, and Amber Jennings, entering the game 2-for-8 from 3-point range, hit four, including two in the fourth quarter, as part of 14-point performance to add to the Bees’ defensive issues.
The last of her baskets from behind the arc with 6:23 to play cut into a 78-73 St. Ambrose lead, fueling a 12-2 run.
The Queen Bees tied the game twice in the final minutes, the last time at 89-89 on a lay-in by Madi Epperson with nine seconds to go before Irby hit her game-winning mid-lane jumper.
Returning to action following an eight-game absence, former Rock Island prep Mercedes Jackson led St. Ambrose with 19 points off the bench.
Epperson added 18 and Reeann McCarty finished with 14 for the Queen Bees (6-13, 4-5).