VILLANOVA, PA. 12/2/2012 – It was a game with wild swings as each team would experience dry spells while the opponent would go on runs. In the end the Villanova Wildcats got the last big run, or the last big stop depending upon your perspective, and a career-high 19 points from Sophomore forward Emily Leer to get a 49 – 44 win over the LaSalle Explorers at the Pavilion. Despite the records Villanova Coach Harry Perretta expected this game would be difficult. His prediction was accurate.
“It was exactly what I thought was going to happen,” said Perretta. “We’ve played a lot of games that were easy. We’ve gotten easy shots because those teams did not know us. Now you come back to the east against teams that know you, guard you different, and know your offense better. It’s a completely different scenario.”
The pattern of the game was established early. LaSalle missed their first six shots enabling Villanova to jump out to an 11 – 0 lead within the first six minutes of play. It looked like the Wildcats would cruise to a victory. LaSalle responded over the next eleven minutes of the half by outscoring Villanova 15 – 6 to move to within two points. The Wildcats baskets in that stretch were scored by Leer. The Explorers got their points by Senior guards Brittany Wilson and Ebonee Jones. Villanova appeared to have gotten the momentum back behind Senior forward Laura Sweeney to go into halftime with a 21 – 18 lead.
Apparently was the proper view. Villanova came out in the second half and missed their first 13 shots. The Cats got a free throw from Sweeney, but did not get a basket until the 13:02 mark when Junior guard Devon Kane made a jump shot. Meanwhile LaSalle was on an 11 – 1 run keyed by Wilson who scored 9 of the points.
With 12:35 to play LaSalle led 31 – 24. Leer made a three-pointer that Jones answered with a basket to give LaSalle a 33 – 27 with 11:39 on the clock. The Explorers appeared to be in control. Again, appeared to be. LaSalle missed their next 8 shots. Villanova went on a 17 – 0 run featured by 8 points from Leer, 4 from Senior guard Rachel Roberts, and 5 from Freshman guard Caroline Coyer. The dry spell lasted close to eight minutes. Leer felt the urgency of the situation.
“Definitely,” said Leer. “We came out in the second half and it was slow. Both teams were around the same score, so we said someone needs to break this game open eventually. We did start making some buckets.”
Until Jones broke the run LaSalle trailed 44 – 33. Keeping within the spirit of the contest LaSalle got to within four at 48 – 44 with 25 seconds on the clock, but got no closer.
“I was glad we won because when they got us down seven, I thought it was over because we had not been challenged,” Perretta said. “We were on the verge of falling apart. That has been our M.O. in the past, we’ve fallen apart. I am happy we were able to come back, make a couple of shots. We needed one kid to make a shot. Leer did. Then what happened a couple of the other kids took a deep breath. It helps the other kids when one kid makes a shot.”
Did Villanova get the last big run, or did LaSalle ge the last big scoreless streak? Maybe both? LaSalle Coach Jeff Williams attributed the difference to fatigue on LaSalle’s part.
“I thought we got tired down the stretch at a key time,” said Williams. “I told the team I probably should have called a timeout, and not let Villanova take a lead. But we have to be mentally tough. We’ve been in this position before, and we haven’t closed out.”
In this season LaSalle has been close against North Carolina and Georgetown, now Villanova, but could not get the game to fall in their favor. The Explorers have been forced to play a short bench due to injury.
Sweeney recorded a double-double for Villanova with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Leer also pulled down a career-high tying 7 rebounds. In scoring her 19 points Leer made 8 of 10 shots. As a team Villanova was 18 – 51 (35.3%). The Wildcats made 6 of 17 shots from beyond the arc.
Wilson led LaSalle with 23 points. Jones scored 12 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. The Explorers made 17 of 59 field goal attempts (28.8%), and went 3 – 12 from distance.
Villanova improves to 6 – 1, and tie Penn for the top-spot in the Big Five at 1 – 0. The Wildcats play their second Big Five game on Saturday at Saint Joseph’s before preparing for their next home game against Princeton. LaSalle drops to 1 – 7, 0 – 2 in city series play. The Explorers return home for games against Albany and Florida.
Written By: Glenn Papazian