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Wildcats Shred Pirates to Move Up to 4th in Big East

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Image Credit: JD Walker – Stream Punk Entertainment

    The Villanova Wildcats Women’s Basketball program might not have as many trophies as The Behemoth of Storrs or as the Wildcats Men’s program, but they have a storied history in their own right. The history was on display Saturday afternoon at the Finneran Pavilion on the Main Line as the team celebrated the alumnae of Villanova Women’s Basketball featuring everybody from legendary coach Harry Peretta to stone cold sniper Maddy Siegrist and so much in between as about 50 alumnae of the program came back for the celebration. The Seton Hall Pirates came in hoping to build on a close 5 point loss to the Wildcats at home last month and a 17 point victory over Georgetown in their last game, but Lucy Olsen caught fire early and the Wildcats never looked back as Villanova dropped Seton Hall 69-41. Olsen led the Wildcats with a double-double of 21 points and 10 assists while Azana Baines led the Pirates with 10 points.

    Lucy Olsen had her way with the Pirates early going 6-7 shooting including 3-3 from beyond the arc for 15 points in the first quarter leading the Wildcats to an early 25-14 lead after the first quarter. The Pirates came back with some fight in the second quarter starting with a Micah Gray pull up jumper launching an 8-2 run sustained by the Pirates signature defense putting up a few stops which showed for a moment that this would be a tough fight going forward as the Pirates closed the deficit to 29-24 with just under a minute left in the second quarter. That last minute was where the Wildcats turned around and clawed back, first with a Bella Runyan three and then a Zanai Jones buzzer beater quickly put Villanova back up 34-24 at halftime and stopped the Pirates momentum dead in its tracks. 

    The third quarter took the Wildcats to a new level as they ran off to a 13-0 run over the first six minutes of the quarter led by two jumpers from Bella Runyan and two layups from Christina Dolce easily carving through the Pirates defense which led to Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella benching all of his starters around the five minute mark hoping to find some sort of spark. A Shailyn Pinkney turnaround jumper finally stopped the bleeding at the 3:46 mark of the third, but Villanova was firmly in control with a 49-32 lead at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter was more of the same as Villanova jumped out to an 8-0 run to start the quarter on a Runyan three pointer, a Dolce layup and a Kaitlyn Ohriel fast break three pointer put the Wildcats up by 25 and slammed the door shut on any remaining hope the Pirates had, cruising the rest of the way to a 69-41 victory. 

 In the postgame press conference (full video below) Villanova coach Denise Dillon was proud of the effort especially after three tough losses in their past four games: “Great team effort, especially on the defensive end just starting us off in a really big game for us, a must win after a tough battle the other night. Seton Hall has been playing really good basketball for us to get this W is huge.” On the Zanai Jone buzzer beater going into halftime, Dillon said: “Z has been playing really good basketball for us, you can just see how she’s comfortable in her role and stepping up and taking shots when open but also creating some. That was big…building it to 10 going into the half and giving us that momentum back was crucial.” 

News and notes:

  • Villanova’s 28 point victory was also Seton Hall’s worst loss of the season so far, surpassing a 24 point loss at home to #9 UConn 83-59 on January 17.
  • Villanova’s victory bounced back from a 21 point loss to UConn in their previous game on January 31 which was their third loss in four games with a victory over DePaul and losses to #21 Creighton and Providence. 
  • Seton Hall (13-9/5-6 Big East) is now tied with Georgetown for 7th place in the Big East. Next up is a trip up north to face “The Behemoth” on Wednesday, playing #11 UConn at the XL Center in Hartford. 
  • Villanova (14-8/7-4) now sits alone in 4th place in the Big East behind UConn, Creighton, and St. John’s. The Wildcats have a week off then go on the road for games at Marquette on February 10 and Georgetown on February 13. 

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