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Significant start to season for Billikens as experience pays off

Returners for Saint Louis came ready to play their home and season opener tonight vs Southeast Missouri State. Despite a slow start by SLU, the Redhawks had no match for the Billiken whose four of the five starts all scored at least 10 points.

Photo by Saint Louis Athletics

St. Louis, MO -- After the unveiling of a freshly painted court, complete with a newly designed Billiken logo, the Saint Louis women's basketball team stormed the Chaifetz Arena floor for their home opener against the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks. The Billikens earned a 67-52 victory to start their 2015-2016 season.

Saint Louis welcomed back 10 players this season, including all five starters from last year's team. The returning five starters, accompanied by a strong bench of scorers, did not disappoint. Jackie Kemph, Jamesia Price, Maddison Gits, and Sadie Stipanovich all recorded double-digit scoring performances for the Billikens, combining for 51 of the teams 67 points.

The Billikens got off to a bit of a slow start after the tipoff. It wasn't until 2 minutes and 30 seconds into the game that their first points made it on the scoreboard: a bucket in the paint by junior center, Sadie Stipanovich.

The tempo quickly picked up as the second quarter began with a score of 18-14 in favor of Saint Louis. The scoring on both teams made for a point for point, back and forth battle. SLU was able to capitalize on a 3-second violation to take a 20-19 lead.

After this basket by Maddison Gits, the Billikens never looked back. They went on a scoring run during the final two minutes of play before the halftime buzzer sounded, giving them a 29-23 lead over the Redhawks going into halftime. Bri Mitchell of SEMO single-handedly dominated the floor, scoring 13 of the Redhawk's 23 points going into the break.

Saint Louis stepped out onto the court with a vengeance to start the second half. They scored 12 points within the first 2 minutes and 50 seconds, going on a 14-2 run before SEMO called a timeout with 6:09 on the clock. The Billikens dominated the boards and became more aggressive on offense, attacking the basket for the majority of the third and forth quarters and extending their lead.

Despite full court pressure from the Redhawks, the Billikens were able to execute offensively and hold their lead until time expired. Their grit and tenacity led them to their first victory of this season in front of their home crowd.

"I'm really proud of our team," Billikens head coach, Lisa Stone, said. "It's been a long time since Saint Louis women's basketball has started off the season 1-0. This first game of the season demonstrated that we do still have a long way to go, but we are very happy with a victory."

SLU's defense limited SEMO to 31 percent (20-for-64) shooting from the field and 13 percent (2-for-15) from three-point range. The Billikens outrebounded the Redhawks 45-43, with 15 of those being offensive rebounds, giving them a lot of second-chance scoring opportunities in the paint. For the game, Saint Louis shot 38 percent (24-for-63) from the field and 70 percent (14-for-20) from the free throw line.

Sophomore guard, Jackie Kemph, led the Billikens in scoring with 15 points: six coming from the field, three from beyond the arc, and six from the foul line.

Stipanovich ended the game with her first double-double of the 2015-2016 season: scoring 11 points from the field and pulling down 11 rebounds to lead the Billikens. She finished the game 3-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 from the foul line.

Maddison Gits and Jamesia Price of Saint Louis also added 11 points and 14 points, respectively.

Bri Mitchell of SEMO was able to use her quickness and strength around the basket to score 18 points, a team and overall game high.

The Billikens return to action on Tuesday, November 17th against Tulsa. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST at Chaifetz Arena.