No energy. No spark. No chance.
It was a struggle from the start Wednesday for the St. Ambrose women’s basketball team against eighth-ranked Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference leader St. Francis (Ill.).
"If you can’t get up for the No. 8 team in the country, it’s going to be a long night," Fighting Bees coach Krista Van Hauen said.
St. Francis all-American Kaitlin Aylward ensured that, scoring all but two of her 18 points in the second half as the Fighting Saints pulled away to a 67-47 victory at Lee Lohman Arena.
In a game that started 15 minutes later than scheduled because water had leaked onto the court prior to pregame warm-ups, early turnovers helped leave the Fighting Bees in a 31-20 halftime hole before Aylward found her touch.
St. Francis turned 12 first-half turnovers by St. Ambrose into 13 points.
Aylward, a 6-foot senior, took over from there.
"She showed why she’s an all-American, put that team on her back and carried them after struggling a bit in the first half. That’s what all-Americans do. They continue to fight," Van Hauen said.
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Aylward scored 11 of her points in the third quarter, helping the Fighting Saints build a lead which reached 51-31 by the end of the quarter.
Nine of Aylward’s points came during a 14-1 run that closed the quarter against a St. Ambrose team which had trailed 37-30 after Kylie Wroblewski scored two of her team-high 12 points on a field goal with 5 minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The field goal was the last the Fighting Bees would hit until Maddy Cash scored with 9:14 remaining in the game.
St. Ambrose connected on just three of its 12 shots in third quarter and was an icy 36.7 percent from the field in the game, leading the Bees to their lowest offensive output of the season.
"It’s disappointing because we played so well (in a three-point loss at No. 10 St. Xavier and a win at Calumet St. Joseph) on the road last week, and that energy, it wasn’t there tonight," Van Hauen said.
"When you’re shooting 36 percent, there isn’t much a coach can call to run that is going to work."
St. Ambrose did find some success inside, where Wroblewski and Madeline Prestegaard combined to go 9-of-17 from the field.
But, that wasn’t enough to counter the 44-percent shooting and 22-12 advantage in points off of turnovers enjoyed by St. Francis (17-3, 12-0 CCAC).
"It’s just disappointing to have that type of effort against an opponent we needed to be ready for," Van Hauen said. "We’ve got to step it up because it doesn’t get any easier."
St. Ambrose (8-11, 6-6) faces its third ranked opponent in four games Saturday, hosting No. 20 Indiana-South Bend at 1 p.m.