Women’s hoops takes down the Friars

Aijanen drops double-double, leads Musketeers to home win

Newswire photo by Sydney Sanders | Senior forward Annina Aijanen recorded a double-double in the Musketeers’ victory over Providence with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The Xavier women’s basketball team took to the court last Friday night against the Providence Friars in a game that was all Musketeers. Xavier defeated Providence by a final score of 69-58.

Xavier was 7-1 all time against the Friars, and coming into last Friday’s home tilt, the Musketeers had been on the winning end of the matchup in the last six contests between the two teams.

The Musketeers jumped out to an early 11-3 lead at about the five-minute mark of the first quarter in part thanks to a defensive stand that did not allow the Friars to score for 3:14.

The first quarter of play was all Xavier as it took advantage of the Friars’ porous defense inside the paint. At the end of the first quarter, Xavier led 22-7.

The Musketeers extended their lead to 34-19 by the end of the first half, capped by an exciting half-court buzzer-beater by sophomore Na’Teshia Owens.

The incredible shot was featured as the No. 4 top play on Sportcenter Top 10 Plays of the Week. Xavier shot 53.6 percent from the field while holding the Friars to shooting just 30.8 percent from the floor in the first half.

About halfway through the third quarter, the Friars mounted a comeback, and by the 4:01 mark, Providence cut the Musketeers’ lead to eight points.

While the Friars were on the comeback trail, the Musketeers never gave up the lead in the third quarter. After a last-second three pointer by freshman Aaliyah Dunham, Xavier led Providence 47-42.

A pair of three pointers with just under seven minutes to play in the game by redshirt junior Kindell Fincher and senior Annina Aijanen forced the Friars to call a timeout after the Musketeers took a 15-point lead.

Xavier controlled the rest of the fourth and final quarter of the game and never ceded the lead to the Friars. It cruised to a 69-58 victory at Cintas Center.

Three Musketeers scored double-digits in the points category. Aijanen finished the game with a double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

For her efforts, she was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll.

“I thought tonight she didn’t hesitate,” head coach Brian Neal said. “She just played and just took whatever came her way and was very aggressive.

“She’s a good player and so it was neat to see…That was a huge game by Annina, and hopefully she can build on that.”

Fincher had 14 points of her own along with three boards. Senior Jada Byrd was 5-7 from the field while contributing 11 points and four assists.

“I think we got into a little bit of a rut, and that rut carried over to the defensive end for a while,” Neal said.

“In that fourth quarter, I think we re-established ourselves defensively. That gave us some energy, and then we were able to start scoring again.”

On Monday, the Musketeers faced the Creighton Blue Jays but ultimately fell 71-64 in an overtime loss.

The high scorer for the Musketeers once again was Aijanen, as she added 14 points to her total this week.

Byrd, another senior, scored 13 points and collected four assists.

Owens also scored in double figures with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.

The women’s team returns to the court on Friday against Villanova. It will face the Georgetown Hoyas on Sunday to complete the back end of a four-game homestand.

Tipoff against Villanova is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Cintas Center.

By: Luke Feliciano ~Sports Editor~