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Emily Strilich (Valparaiso, IN/Boone Grove) scored a game- and career-high 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds, and Staci Funkhouser (McCordsville, IN/Mount Vernon) added ten points, but it was not enough as IU South Bend (11-17, 2-6 CCAC) could not overcome a 15-point second half deficit and fell 68-64 to NAIA D1 #14 St. Xavier. The Titans used a 12-0 run to nearly erase the margin with just over six minutes to go, eventually closing to within one with 2:30 remaining, but they were unable to complete the comeback.
From the outset, it was a nip-and-tuck affair, with neither team able to grab control over the opening stretch of the first half. After SXU grabbed a five-point lead at 25-20, Strilich connected for the Titans, to bring them to within three, but the Cougars answered with an 8-0 surge to grab their largest lead of the first half at 33-22 with just 3:34 to play. After IU South Bend chopped the lead back to five, SXU once again pushed the edge to double figures, holding a 38-28 lead with just 1:37 to play before the break.
The final minute-and-a-half belonged to the Titans, however, as they closed the opening stanza on an 8-2 run, capped by a Lizzie Stapke (Highland, IN/Highland) three-point play to cut the Cougars lead to 40-36 at the break.
The second half started slowly, with the two teams combining to manage just one field goal during the opening three-and-a-half minutes. After Strilich connected on a free throw line jumper to break the Titans into the scoring column, SXU stormed out to their largest lead of the game, using an 11-0 run to take the 53-38 advantage.
After the teams traded scores, the Titans embarked on a run of thier own, holding SXU scoreless for nearly five minutes and scoring a dozen unanswered points to pull within three at 58-55. After SXU pushed the lead back to six, Kayla George (Peru, IN/Maconaquah) connected from three-point range and Courtney Simpson (Nappanee, IN/NorthWood) scored inside on the next possession to pull IU South Bend within just a single point.
Simpson's would be the last field goal for the Titans, however, as SXU converted from the free throw line and kept the Titans to just a pair of Nichole Sly (Niles, MI/Niles) over the final 2:30 to seal the win.
Simpson chipped in on the glass with seven rebounds, while Stapke added six caroms. Stapke also joined Ashley Carson (Winchester, TN/Franklin County) and Sly with three assists in the contest.
The Titans return to action on Tuesday, February 21, when they travel to Bourbonnais, IL, to take on NAIA D1 #11 Olivet Nazarene. Tip-off of that game is set for 6:30 PM (EST).