VILLANOVA, January 17, 2012 – When the Villanova Wildcats women’s basketball team took the floor against the University of Pennsylvania Quakers it was their chance to win the Big Five championship, and to continue to build upon and enhance what they learned against the University of Connecticut Huskies. Penn wanted to continue to build off a strong defensive effort against Saint Joseph’s. In the end it was great defense and offensive balance that gave Villanova a 52 – 30 victory. With the win the Wildcats claim their 13th Big Five championship. It was their second outright title in the last three seasons, and the seventh with a perfect city series record.
“It’s always fun to win that (the Big Five),” said Villanova Coach Harry Perretta about his team taking the 2011-12 crown. “For the kids it means a lot, and being from Philly it means a lot to me, too. Even though we won the game by a decent amount of points, it was a Big Five game.”
Penn was able to stay with Villanova for the first ten minutes of the contest. The Quakers led 11 – 9, but they would score only 5 more points for the rest of the half. The Wildcats rode a 21 – 5 run to a 30 – 16 halftime lead. A 16 – 6 run at the start of the second half sealed the deal for the Blue and White as they took a 46 – 22 lead with 7:12 to play.
Once Villanova established offensive flow the formula was to get the ball inside. Senior forward Laura Sweeney took advantage of the inside scoring a game-high 22 points as she made 9 of 16 shots. Sweeney pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. When Penn was forced to defend the paint, Villanova moved the ball to the perimeter. The Wildcats made 7 of 29 three-pointers. Redshirt Freshman forward Lauren Burford made 5 of 10 from beyond the arc for 17 total points. Villanova had a 20 -12 advantage in points in the paint.
“Early in the game we were rushing everything, and turning it over or not getting a quality shot,” said Perretta. “Then at the end of the first half we decided to walk the ball up the court and take our time. What happened was we put Sweeney and (Freshman Forward Emily) Leer in a better position to see the double team. Then we started to get more quality kick-outs and open shots.”
“We tried to find mismatches if they doubled or collapsed inside, we have great shooters from the perimeter that are killers if we go inside out,” said Sweeney.
Defensively, the Wildcats held the Quakers to 26.1% shooting making 12 of 46, and 5 of 22 threes. The Red and Blue committed 23 turnovers that led to 21 points off turnovers for the Blue and White. Penn’s leading scorer Sophomore guard Alyssa Baron was held scoreless bothered by Villanova’s superior size. Baron did contribute 4 assists and 7 rebounds. Senior forward Jourdan Banks led Penn with 9 points.
“We were very non-competitive with them over the last 28 minutes,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “I didn’t think we played the way Penn plays. We didn’t compete as hard as we have to do to give ourselves a chance.”
Penn is establishing themselves as a tough defensive squad. However, the Quakers have not been able to consistently score. The team has been held under 50 points in their last six games, something of concern McLaughlin.
Villanova improves to 12 – 6 overall. The Wildcats return to Big East play as they travel to South Bend to meet national power Notre Dame on January 21. Penn is 7 – 7 and is 0 – 2 in the Big Five. On January 21 they play their third city series contest at home against Temple.
Written By: Glenn Papazian