The Saint Louis University women’s basketball team got a very important win earlier this week over Davidson. The 88-51 win brought the team’s season record to 19-6 overall and 9-3 in the Atlantic 10. Both win totals are SLU women’s basketball program records.
Jackie Kemph led the way for the Billikens Monday with 19 points and 14 assists for her fourth double-double of the season. With the performance, Kemph matched her assists total from last season and needs just ten more assists to set the single-season program record. The sophomore from Arlington Heights, Illinois is currently fourth on the program’s career assists list.
Fellow sophomore Aaliyah Covington also recorded 19 points, hitting 3 of her 4 shots from three-point land.
While the men’s program has a history that includes “Spoonball” with coach Charlie Spoonhour and figures like Erwin Claggett Larry Hughes, Anthony Bonner, Scott Highmark and coach Rick Majerus, the women’s 40 years of basketball had been largely lacking. Coming into this season, the program had a historical record of 427 wins to 649 losses, a winning percentage of just .397. It also spent years playing games at West Pine Gym and using a locker room without running water.
Coach Stone Arrives
Lisa Stone was named the head coach of the Saint Louis University women’s basketball team in May of 2012. The team had been coached by Shimmy Gray-Miller for the seven previous seasons. Gray-Miller’s teams combined for an overall record of 71-136 during her tenure. This stretch came after Jill Pizzotti’s ten years at the helm with a 113-167 record. Gray-Miller is now an assistant coach at Florida while Pizzotti is an assistant at Depaul.
Stone brought a wealth of coaching experience to the Billikens. Named head coach at Division III Cornell College at the age of just 21 in 1985, Stone also enjoyed success at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Drake and Wisconsin before landing in St. Louis. She also spent a year working as an analyst for the Big Ten Network and was recommended for the SLU job by Rick Majerus himself.
The change didn’t bring a worst-to-first story immediately, but it did bring progress. The Billikens were 12-19 in Stone’s first season. The 2013-2014 season brought another 12-win season and the arrival of the husband and wife team of Emily and Mike Geary. The pair saw success at Detroit-Mercy before coming to SLU, winning the Women’s Basketball Invitational Championship during the 2012-13 season.
The program took another step forward last season, finishing with a 15-16 record.
Strong Recruiting Classes
The Billikens have risen during Stone’s tenure as players she’s recruited have become a larger part of the program. Sadie Stipanovich, the daughter of former Mizzou star and NBA player Steve Stipanovich, was part of her first recruiting class. Stipanovich was a “late-bloomer” at Westminster Christian Academy who has blossomed during her time in college.
Stone’s next recruiting class was highlighted by the commitment of long-time teammates Jackie Kemph and Jenny Vliet. The teammates were highly-regarded in Illinois, with Kemph being named the 2012-13 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year. That class also included Covington, who is contributing 7.5 points per game off the bench this season and leads the team in three-point field goal percentage.
This season, with Stone’s recruits complimented by the leadership of senior Denisha Womack and redshirt-senior Jamesia Price, the Saint Louis University women’s basketball team is guaranteed its first winning season since 2002-2003 and just its third in the last thirty seasons of basketball.
The Billikens play an exciting brand of basketball, led by the duo of Stipanovich and Kemph. Kemph leads the team in scoring and is fourth in the A-10, averaging 16 points a game while Stipanovich is contributing 12 points per contest. Kemph’s seven assists per night lead the conference. A common sight at Chaifetz Arena is Kemph breaking down the court and vexing a defender that doesn’t know whether to guard against the layup or try to defend against a pass to Stipanovich.
Overall, the Billikens rank third in the A-10 by scoring an average of 71.8 points per game and second by outscoring their opponents by 10.8 points per game, on average.
The Saint Louis University women’s basketball team has been to the postseason exactly one time in program history, a 2003 appearance in the Women’s National Invitational basketball tournament.
The Billikens are currently 9-3 in the Atlantic 10, tied for third in the conference. They have conference losses to George Mason, George Washington and St. Bonaventure. The team avenged its home loss to George Mason with a win late last month on their court. Unfortunately, the A-10 isn’t considered as strong as, say the SEC, in women’s basketball circles.
The latest Bracketology report from ESPN predicts two A-10 teams getting into the NCAA Tournament, Duquesne (23-2) as an at-large team and George Washington (21-4) as the winner of the A-10 Conference Tournament.
SLU could possibly get into the tournament as an at-large team by winning its four remaining games and then having a strong showing in the conference tournament. A guaranteed bid to the tournament, however, is awarded to the winner of the A-10 conference tournament. That’s a route that the team would surely rather take.
See The Billikens At Chaifetz Arena
The Saint Louis University women’s basketball team will go for its 20th win of the season Thursday night at Chaifetz Arena. The Duquesne Dukes bring a 23-2 record and #23 USA Today Coaches Poll ranking to St. Louis for a 7 pm tip-off.
Tickets for the game are available at the Chaifetz Arena box office or online at SLUBillikens.com
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