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by Pat Ralph

The women’s basketball team began their 2012-’13 season this past weekend in Minneapolis, Minn., at the Best Buy Classic, where they played both South Dakota State and the University of Minnesota, the host school of the tournament. Coming off a 19-15 2011-’12 season, and with Head Coach Harry Perretta beginning his 35th season at the helm of the program, the Wildcats began their season last Saturday with a 71-47 win over the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State at the Williams Arena. The Wildcats are now 28-16 all-time in season openers.

Senior forward Lauren Sweeney led the way for the Wildcats in the contest with 24 points, 16 of which came before halftime. Sweeney went 10-of-13 from the field, while junior guard Devon Kane went 5-of-7 from the field and had 13 points. Sweeney also added six rebounds, three assists and a game-high four steals.

The Wildcats shot 52 percent in the first half and lead 44-25 at intermission, powered by a late spurt in the first half that extended the ’Cats’ lead to as much as 20 points. After the Jackrabbits cut the Wildcats’ lead down to 10 to start the second half, ’Nova responded with a 14-1 run to put the game out of reach.

The largest led of the night for the Wildcats was 26 points, which they accumulated late in the second half. Along with an impressive performance on the offensive end by shooting 45 percent in the game, the Wildcats forced South Dakota State into making 18 turnovers and capitalized upon these opportunities with 14 points off turnovers.

However, the Wildcats success from Saturday’s action was short-lived, as the women fell to the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a score 75-60 in the championship game of the Best Buy Classic to take second place in the tournament. Leading the way for the Wildcats were freshman point guard Caroline Coyer, who had 13 points in the contest and senior guard Rachel Roberts, who put in 12 on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. Coyer also had three rebounds and three assists in the contest. Senior forward Megan Pearson led the Wildcats on the boards, claiming five rebounds in the game.

Villanova got off to a slow start in the championship game, as they shot 30 percent from the field in the first half and trailed 33-26 at the break against the Golden Gophers. Not only did a slow start not help, but the Golden Gophers’ red-hot 46 percent shooting percentage and 11-of-11 shooting from the free throw line in the first half did not make things easier for the ’Cats. Minnesota’s stingy defense forced the Wildcats into many turnovers, which ended up producing 20 points for the Gophers.

The Wildcats trailed for the majority of the game, but they were able to cut the Gophers’ lead down to six early in the second half. However, the Golden Gophers took back control of the contest and were able to extend the lead out to as much as 19 in the second half to put the game away. The Wildcats struggled all day against Minnesota, as they managed to shoot only 37 percent from the field while the Gophers shot an impressive 49 percent.

Despite the loss, both seniors Roberts and Sweeney claimed all-tournament selection for their play over the weekend in Minneapolis. Next up for the women’s basketball team is their home opener next Monday against Bloomsburg. Tip-off for that game is set for 7:00 pm.

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