Villanova Earns Second Straight Title and 100th Big Five Win
PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/16/2013 – The Villanova Wildcats women’s basketball team won their second straight Big Five championship, and third in the last four years by virtue of a 48 – 44 win over the University of Pennsylvania in a hard-fought game at the Palestra. Villanova expected a tough game, and they got one. That was not a surprise to Villanova coach Harry Perretta.
“When we played here I had a team taken to the Elite Eight and won by three,” Perretta said. “I’ve taken a team that was 27 – 4 down here and won by two. That is not unexpected. They (Penn) play very well here. They play good defense. They held the score down. They played patient. You’re not going to outsmart them.”
The last three times the city rivals have played at the Palestra Villanova has won by a combined total of 14 points. Now it can be four times by 18 points. Penn, coming off a 30 point loss at Princeton, served notice early that if Villanova was going to get the city crown, they would have to earn it.
The Wildcats took a 16 – 8 lead on a layup by senior forward Laura Sweeney at the 9:52 mark. Over the next five minutes Villanova did not score. Penn went on an 8 – 0 run to tie the score; six of those points were scored by junior guard Alyssa Baron. Villanova junior guard Devon Kane broke the scoreless streak with 5:02 remaining in the first half, but that was the last basket by Villanova until sophomore forward Taylor Holeman made a three-pointer with 13 seconds to play in the half. The Red and Blue scored 7 points in that span to take a 23 – 21 halftime lead.
In the second half Penn came out and got the first six points to carve out a 29 – 21 lead. This time Penn went cold. Villanova started to work the ball inside to Sweeney who keyed a 20 – 5 Villanova run to take a 41 – 34 lead with 8:39 to play. Sweeney scored 13 of the points in that run. She scored a game-high 19 points, 15 in the second half. The Marlton, NJ native felt her points came within the flow of the offense.
“We’re at our best when we stick to our offense,” Sweeney said. “That’s when we make the best shots. We can’t get frazzled by the score difference.”
Villanova looked to be in control, but Penn had another run left in them.
Baron, who scored a team-high 18 points, got back to back baskets to get the Quakers back to within one possession at 41 – 38. Sweeney scored for Villanova, but that was answered by a jumper from Penn sophomore forward Kara Bonenberger to keep the deficit to three points. Villanova was looking inside, and Penn was trying to take that away. It opened the outside. Villanova was not effective from beyond the arc, but this time Kane made a huge three-pointer to give her team a 46 – 40 lead with 4:33 to play.
“We knew it was going to be a battle to the end,” Kane said. “It was going to be shot for shot. A shot like that was going to make a difference.”
Penn got back to within 46 – 42 as 2:57 showed on the clock. Villanova got the ball. Over the next two minutes and nine seconds Villanova missed five shots, but got five offensive rebounds to hold the ball until 57 seconds remained when Sweeney was called for an offensive foul. Penn got to within 46 – 44 on a layup by freshman guard Keiera Ray as 48 seconds remained to be played.
“That last few minutes I thought we were playing defense forever,” said Baron. “It drained us at the end playing defense for so long. It took away our opportunities to come back and get on offense. We have to dig deep at the end of games, get those rebounds. In the future we can’t let that happen again.”
Penn had to foul to get Villanova to the foul line. That finally happened with 7 seconds on the clock. Kane went to the foul line and made both free throws, her 11th point of the game. Penn did not get another shot away. The Red and Blue did not get the win, but there are positives to take from this game.
“We defended them really well,” said Penn Coach Mike McLaughlin. “In the first half if we made a couple more shots, we could have had a bigger lead at the end of the half.”
“We made progress, but these girls are disappointed in they felt they should have won this game.”
Villanova got their 100th Big Five win and a Big Five Championship. The Wildcats have won nine straight Big Five games. It is a great accomplishment for the team.
“It is a big deal for us,” said Kane. “We won it last year. It’s a good feeling winning the Big Five, especially being from Philly. It’s a good tradition and fun to be a part of it. It’s always good when you can win it.”
And for Coach Perretta it was significant to get the title, but what was more significant to him was where they earned it.
“It’s always a huge thing for us to win the Big Five Championship,” said Perretta. “It’s a big thing to everybody who wins the Big Five Championship. It may sound corny, but we were able to win it at The Palestra, which means more to me than to the team.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian