by Frank Scicchitano
The women’s basketball team hosted city rival La Salle on Sunday afternoon in the Pavilion. The Wildcats improved their record to 6-1, including 1-0 in Big 5 play, with a 49-44 victory over the Explorers. The win also improved the ’Cats’ win streak to five games. La Salle fell to 1-7 on the season with the loss.
Senior forward Laura Sweeney led the offense by scoring six points as the Wildcats raced out to an 11-0 lead in the first five minutes of the contest. The 11-point lead would stand until the halfway point of the first half when La Salle went on a 14-2 run once Sweeney was substituted. Senior guard Brittany Wilson scored 10 of the Explorers’ 14 points during this stretch.
Villanova would regain momentum at the end of the half when Sweeney scored four more points to give the Wildcats a 21-18 lead at the break. Both teams committed nine turnovers in the first half and shot the ball at a low percentage. Villanova shot 33.3 percent from the field, while La Salle shot just 23.3 percent.
The Explorers went on another run to start the second half, grabbing a 31-24 lead with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game. A few minutes later, La Salle’s Ebonee Jones would hit a lay-up to make the score 33-27, but Villanova would respond by taking off on a 17-0 run.
The Wildcats’ offense was stagnant to open the second half, as they tried to force the ball inside too much without creating much movement. Head Coach Harry Perretta’s offense revolves around set plays, with various screens and passes creating open looks for a team rife with pure shooters.
Once ’Nova opened up passing lanes, shots started falling and the team began to pull away. Sophomore forward Emily Leer had eight of her career-high 19 points during this dominating run. She hit two three-pointers and put in an aggressive lay-up that helped build ’Nova’s lead to 44-33 with just under six minutes remaining.
This spurt also helped the Wildcats improve their second-half field goal percentage. They started the half shooting 0-for-12 from the field but then proceeded to connect on 10 of their next 15 shots.
With 2:35 left to play, Villanova led 48-40. For the next minute-and-a-half, defenses took over. Neither team scored until the Explorers’ Jess Koci hit a lay-up to cut the lead to six points. On La Salle’s next possession, Jones made another basket to make it a four-point game.
Villanova senior guard Rachel Roberts hit one of two foul shots with 16 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a five-point lead and make it a two possession game. The Wildcats grabbed a rebound after a missed three-point attempt by La Salle to seal their 49-44 victory.
Leer added to her career-high scoring day with seven rebounds. She shot 80 percent from the floor (8-for-10) which included a 3-for-4 performance from 3-point range.
Sweeney recorded her second double-double of the season and the 12th of her career. She had 13 points and 10 rebounds, as well as three blocks and a steal. She now has 637 boards in her career, putting her in ninth place on Villanova’s all-time rebounding list. The 6-foot-2 senior has also scored double-digit points in all seven games this year for the Wildcats.
Roberts moved the ball around well for the Wildcats, racking up five assists to go along with her seven points.
Brittany Wilson led the scoring for La Salle with 23 points. Jones added 12 points and nine rebounds.
Both teams were streaky, with only four lead changes throughout the entire game. Villanova’s bench contributed greatly, scoring 26 of the team’s 49 points.
Villanova turned the ball over 14 times but did not allow La Salle to capitalize too much on its mishaps, allowing only nine points off of turnovers. The Wildcats also had nine points off of 13 Explorer turnovers.
The Wildcats have been victorious in their last four meetings with La Salle and are dominating the all-time series 33-9.
Villanova will be back in action this Saturday, Dec. 8, as the team travels into Philadelphia to battle Saint Joseph’s. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.