SLU Teaches Fordham Important Lesson on Education Day


Photo Courtesy of Michael Place

Looking at a 7-5 conference record, the SLU women’s basketball team needed to put out a strong showing at home against Fordham. A St. Louis city tradition, the Books and Basketball game is the centerpiece of a day out for the elementary school-children around SLU. With festivities planned before, during and after the game, Chaifetz Arena is as loud as it ever is during the season.

Saint Louis lost its meeting earlier in the season at Fordham, with star player junior Bre Cavanaugh carrying the Bronx team with a massive 27 points and seven rebounds. As a player widely renowned as one of the best in A-10, it was crucial that SLU had an effective plan to counter the star’s exploits.

An enticing first half on the court meant that SLU and Fordham were tied 29-29 at the half. At that point, Cavanaugh was only stopped from firing off in the first quarter, racking up 12 points to end the half. For the Bills, the point distribution was much more even, with sophomore guard Ciaja Harbison leading the team with nine points, scoring four of ten field goal attempts, and one of two from the three-point line.

With only three games left in A-10 play, it was now or never for Saint Louis. The two sides had a split all-time record at 10-a-piece, and the challenge was as fierce as could be expected. The Bills started the scoring in the second-half with Rachel Kent, the freshman guard, putting up a three.

Kent continued the scoring with a scooped finish a couple minutes later. She was quickly answered with a three from Cavanaugh. The game continued with a steeping intensity, increasing with each point scored by either of the teams. The three-point shooting fired off late in the third quarter, with SLU leading Fordham 39-35 at the end.

With Fordham biting back at the start of the fourth, it was crucial Saint Louis two points, courtesy of Cavanaugh, before Harbison continued her strong performance with a strip of a Fordham player and finished on the counter to put the Bills up by four once again.

Fordham fought back to take the lead again, and did so thanks to a decisive three pointer from Kaitlyn Downey, the starting forward. The Bills managed to get a point back and tied the game at 42-42 with less than 5 minutes left on the clock in regulation. The deafening cheers from the largely K-5 attendees became more audible as they sensed something special unfolding before their eyes.

The Billikens were dominant on the floor with senior forward Kendra Wilken putting out a strong showing. A couple of threes from Jaidah Stewart, the freshman and St. Louis local, sent the home crowd into delirium and SLU into a massive eight point lead.

Fordham had no answer as Saint Louis went into an attacking flurry. Even a three from Downey could not stop the SLU storm. With a rapturous crowd supporting their every play, the Bills were responding on the court with resounding effort and persistence. For the audience, confidence was overflowing as shouts of “half-court” and “three” took on an almost demanding tone. 

Saint Louis ran out the clock to claim victory with the final score 59-49. Cavanaugh’s efforts could not save Fordham in the end. The lack of a team performance from Fordham was reflected in the immense 21 point haul from Cavanaugh and 16 from Downey, with everyone else trailing far behind if at all. That is in sharp contrast to SLU, who played with much more cohesion on the field. Harbison again shone with 15 points, but was matched by Kent and closely followed by Stewart at 14. 

Former Billiken Kerri McMahan, now the video coordinator for Fordham, spoke after the game on what the Education Day fixture between SLU and Fordham means. “Every single SLU-Fordham game [it] doesn’t matter how many people are here, if it’s 10,000 or 100, the game’s going to come down to the wire and it came down to the wire again today. Coach Stone and Coach Gaitley have both been in this league for 10 [or so] years now so there’s no surprises. Each coach knows what the other’s offense is, what the defense is, the only thing that changes is the personnel.”

With revenge completed and another great SLU-Fordham game under wraps, it’s time for both teams to focus on their remaining games in the A-10. For Saint Louis, that means heading to VCU on Saturday before they travel to Richmond mid-week and take on Dayton the following weekend at home. The last conference game against Dayton on Feb. 29 is set to be a massive encounter as the visitors are 12-0 in A-10.