by Andrew Moffa
The women’s basketball team traveled to Saint Joseph’s University on Saturday afternoon to take on its Big 5 rival in a key game.
The ’Cats were looking for their sixth straight win and second in the Big 5 in as many games.
Things did not start well for the Wildcats, who lost senior forward and leading scorer Laura Sweeney to an eye injury when she dove for a loose ball less than three minutes into the game. Sweeney did not return to the game.
However, even without Sweeney, the ’Cats were able to stay in control of the game and hang on for a hard-fought 55-51 victory over the Hawks.
In what was a total team effort, senior guard Rachel Roberts led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds. She was one of three ’Cats who reached double figures in the game.
The first half of this game was hotly-contested as Villanova took an early lead and was able to protect it for the entirety of the first half, building a 27-23 lead at the half.
Junior guard Devon Kane scored seven of her 10 points in the first half to help pace the Wildcats.
These two teams battled throughout the first part of the second half, and with only eight-and-a-half minutes remaining, the score was tied at 38.
It was at this point in the game that the ’Cats made the decisive run that would lead them to the victory on the road.
Sophomore forward Taylor Holeman, Kane and Roberts helped lead a 10-0 run by Villanova which gave them their largest lead of the day at 48-38 with a little more than four minutes remaining in the game.
Saint Joe’s responded to this run with four straight points from sophomore Natasha Cloud. With the ball back, the Hawks were looking for a chance to add to their little spurt when senior forward Megan Pearson made one of the best plays of the game for the ’Cats. She anticipated a pass by the Hawks and was able to steal the ball and get fouled.
After making both free throws, the lead was back up to eight points, seemingly putting the game out of reach.
Not ready to give up just yet, the Hawks went on a quick 9-4 run led by Chatil Van Grinsven, who scored a game-high 24 points. An offensive rebound and layup by Van Grinsven cut the lead to three at 54-51 with only six seconds remaining. The ’Cats then inbounded the ball to Roberts, who was fouled and made one of two free throws to seal the win for Villanova.
While the Wildcats only shot 39.6 percent from the field during this contest, they made five 3-pointers and made almost 71 percent of their free throws. Furthermore, Saturday’s game was the second game this year in which the ’Cats turned the ball over less than 10 times.
They turned the ball over a total of just eight times against the Hawks.
Head coach Harry Perretta was pleased with how his team was able to fight back from some adversity early and steal a win on the road against a good team.
“This was a good win for our team. We knew we were going to miss Laura after she went down early in the game,” Perretta said. “I thought we did a great job making up for Laura’s loss. Everybody we put in did something positive for us. I was really happy with how smart we played down the stretch.”
Now 7-1, the women’s basketball team has won six straight games and seven straight in the Big 5, going back to last season.
Saturday’s win was also win No. 98 in the Big 5 for the ’Cats, which is the most all-time by a women’s Big 5 program.
’Nova has a chance to end the this season with 100 wins in the City Series, as they are still awaiting games against Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania this year.
Saturday also marked the 279th straight game in which the Wildcats have made a 3-point shot.
Looking forward, the ’Cats still have a few more non-conference games, including a trip to Dartmouth University for a tournament, before Big East play starts on Jan. 6 against Cincinnati.
Wins like this one at a Big 5 rival will really help the ’Cats going forward as Big East play is looming.
A tough win on the road always builds confidence, especially after a star player goes down to an injury.
Saturday’s win really showcased the importance of balance and having veteran players who can step up whenever their name is called.
This is a great combination for the Wildcats as they hope to keep the momentum going.