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Taylor Holeman was perfect from the field in the win over Montana State. (Audrey Eyring / The Villanovan)

by Karolina Golabek

The women’s basketball team improved to 7-0 with a 68-61 win over Florida International in the championship game of the FIU Thanksgiving Classic. This is the first time since the 1979-80 season that the Wildcats have started 7-0.

Senior guard Devon Kane was named Tournament MVP, while junior forward Lauren Burford earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team. This was the Wildcats’ third appearance in the tournament.

The Wildcats earned a bid in the championship after beating the Montana State Bobcats 79-54.

Villanova led by two points with eight minutes left in the first half, which was increased to a 13 point lead after the Wildcats made a 16-5 run over six minutes to make the score 36-23. Junior forward Taylor Holeman led the Wildcats with eight points at that juncture.

The Wildcats’ biggest lead of the opening half came at 40-24 after sophomore guard Caroline Coyer made two free throws with 15 seconds remaining. The half ended at a 40-26 score after Bobcat sophomore forward Jasmine Hommes made two foul shots.

Villanova made only five of its first 18 shots from the field, but finished the half making 11 of its 19 shots from the field. Holeman led the Wildcats with 11 points, while Kane added eight points and four assists.

The Wildcats were able to begin the second half confidently by making their first five three-point field goals of the half.

This led to a significant 57-28 lead with 16 minutes left to play. Villanova ended up shooting a 64.0 percent in the second half (16 out of 25). This included a 7-11 (63.6 percent) three-point range effort.

Holeman scored a career-high 17 points and went eight-of-eight from the field. This was the first time in history that a Wildcat scored a 100 percent from the field on two separate occasions. She went seven-of-seven from the floor in a win over DePaul last season. Furthermore, Holeman grabbed 10 rebounds, another career-high.

Kane scored a total of 16 points, seven assists, three rebounds, two steals, and a block. Buford scored an impressive 11 points, while Coyer scored 10.

Montana State was led by Hommes with 13 points and sophomore forward Kayla DeWit with 10.

Villanova shot a 32-of-62 (51.6 percent) from the field for the game, while also shooting 9-of-21 from the three-point range (42.9 percent). The Wildcats went 6-of-9 from the foul line (66.7 percent). The Bobcats went 21-of-66 from the floor (31.8 percent), 2-of-12 from the three-point range (16.7 percent), and 11-of-15 from the foul line (73.3 percent).

After this game, the Wildcats were 6-0 for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

The championship game took place Sunday, Dec. 1. The Wildcats led by one point with seven minutes left to play in the first half, but then Florida International made a 12-5 run to take its biggest lead of the half at 23-17 at the 3:29 mark.

FIU junior guard Kamika Idom led the Panthers run with seven of her team’s 12 points.

Villanova soon scored the next five points and diminished the FIU lead to one point. However, the Panthers gained a 25-22 halftime lead after scoring two foul shots.

The Panther lead was partially because Villanova shot an unfortunate 10-of-29 from the floor (34.5 percent) and just 2-14 from three-point range (14.3 percent) in the game’s first 20 minutes.

Buford led Wildcats with six first half points, and Idom led the Panthers with nine points.

With 15 minutes left in the game, the Wildcats tied the score at 31-31. Villanova gained plenty of momentum after leveling the score.

The Wildcats went on a decisive 21-7 run to take a 52-38 lead at the 6:33 mark.

Buford and Coyer made six points each during the Wildcat run. Kane provided with five additional points.

At the 1:16 mark, it appeared that Villanova was in control of the game. Nonetheless, tension arose when the Wildcats missed three consecutive foul shots.

More stress for the Wildcats arose after the Panthers diminished the Villanova lead to only four points at 62-58 with 35 seconds remaining in the second half.

The Wildcats increased the lead to 64-58 after Coyer made two consecutive points by making two free throws.

Florida International received two free throws soon afterwards. Idom made one of the two, making the score 64-59.

A set of two more free throws by Kane gave the team a 66-59 lead with 17 seconds remaining.

The Wildcats improved and went 5-of-11 from behind the arc in the second half.

Buford led Villanova with 19 points and a career high-tying six rebounds, three assists and two blocks. She was 7-of-9 from the field, and a 5-of-7 effort from the three-point range.

Furthermore, Kane scored her first career double-double with 17 points and a career-high 10 assists. She also added four rebounds. Coyer added 11 points in a supporting role.

FIU players also scored in double digits, with Coley scoring 24 points, and Idom tallying 13 points.

Villanova was 24-of-54 from the field (44.4 percent) for the game, 7-of-25 from the three-point range (28.0 percent) and 13-of-18 from the foul line (72.2 percent).

Florida International University shot 21-of-60 from the floor, 6-of-19 from long distance (31.6 percent), and 13-of-17 from the foul line (76.5 percent).

This is the second time that the women’s basketball team has won the Florida International University Thanksgiving Classic.  The Wildcats also did so in 2001. Villanova improved to a 5-1 record all-time in the tournament.

The women’s team has now won eight of its last 11 in-season tournaments and improved to an 83-36 all-time record when participating in in-season tournaments.

Villanova’s next game will be on Saturday, Dec. 7, when the Wildcats will host Saint Joseph’s at 2 p.m.

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