Kurz key in clutch, sparks ‘Nova victories

Kaitlin Santanna

Ever since joining the women’s basketball team two seasons ago, Laura Kurz has become many things for her team – an experienced leader, an offensive presence and an impressive shooter from anywhere on the court. After a few nail-biting victories, however, Kurz can now add “clutch scorer” to the mix.

Within the period of a week, senior forward Kurz was the deciding factor in two of the Wildcats’ victories in the games’ final minutes. The first of her last-second heroics came on Jan.17 when her pair of free throws with 5.2 seconds remaining edged Villanova over West Virginia 54-52. Kurz’s most recent star performance occurred during the ‘Cats’ upset of No. 13 Notre Dame, where the forward scored a vital layup and two free throws in the game’s final 2:30 to secure the victory. Kurz’s two all-star performances were critical in Villanova’s recent Big East successes and brings about her second Villanovan Star of the Week nomination in as many months.

Kurz’s fantastic week started in an enthralling game against West Virginia. Trailing as much as 13 points in the second half, Kurz led the Wildcats back to a tie in the game’s waning minute. Already in the double bonus, the Mountaineers fouled the senior after an inbound play with 5.9 seconds remaining in the game. Kurz stepped up to the challenge and, despite the great pressure in the Pavilion air, sunk both foul shots, bringing the game’s final score to 54-52.

In a game where Kurz scored from all over the court, the Lower Gwynedd, Pa., native finished the West Virginia match with 17 points and seven rebounds. It was the 13th straight game in which Kurz scored in double figures.

Kurz, who transferred from Duke after the ’05-’06 season, continued her flair for the dramatic in Villanova’s upset over then-ranked No. 13 Notre Dame last Saturday. Although the ‘Cats held the lead throughout the game, an Irish 3-point shot brought the opposition within one point with 2:54 left in the game.

Just when doubt began to enter the minds of the Pavilion fans, Kurz arrived on the scene to work her late-game magic once more. In the game’s final two minutes, the senior forward netted a layup. She then came through again on the line scoring two free throws to seal the Villanova win. Kurz was honored for her play last week when the Big East named her to its Weekly Honor Roll. In addition to her play versus Notre Dame, the senior also notched 29 points during the Wildcats’ 67-60 loss to George Washington earlier in the week. Kurz ended the game against Notre Dame with 16 points, illustrating that she is an offensive threat whenever the ball lands in her hands.

“Laura is our best offensive player,” Head Coach Harry Perretta said after the Notre Dame victory. “We want to get her the ball and we always try and find Laura on the court.”

Villanova’s game against George Washington was a monumental one for Kurz. During the match, Kurz reached 800 career points in just under two years at Villanova. Her Wildcat scoring total currently sits at 831 with a career total of 1,189 points.

The passion that Kurz has for basketball is not only evident whenever she sets foot on the court, but runs through her genes as well. Her older brother played basketball at Notre Dame, and her mother, who played the sport at Lafayette in the late 1970s, holds the school’s record for rebounds per game. Adding to the family affair, her cousin, Tim Judge, won the Division III basketball national championship at Catholic University in 2001.

Along with finding herself in the business of scoring clutch points, Kurz also has broken many records throughout her illustrious basketball career. During her high school play at Germantown Academy, she set the school’s all-time scoring record with 2,247 points. She then moved on to Duke, where the forward tied the university’s freshman single-game record after she made four 3-pointers on two different occasions. In her first collegiate season, Kurz ranked first on Duke’s women’s career 3-point field-goal percentage, and her 87.5 free-throw percentage landed her fourth in Duke’s history.

Kurz was forced to take a mandatory season off after she came to Villanova in 2006 due to NCAA transfer rules. While many athletes might have been rusty after missing a season, Kurz immediately felt at home at Villanova and picked up where she left off in the scoring department. During the ’07-’08 season, her first as a Wildcat and third collegiate, Kurz led Villanova by averaging 14.9 points per game.

Now in her final season, Kurz continues to put up career numbers. Last month, she recorded two consecutive double-doubles in games versus St. Joseph’s and Lehigh, proving her dominance at both ends of the floor.

Even though she has spent just two seasons playing for Villanova, Kurz’s presence is well known and called upon every game. With four Big East teams in the Top 25, the women’s basketball team will need Kurz’s leadership and skill to navigate the ‘Cats to a conference playoff spot. Whoever the opponent, the Wildcats can rest assured that they have a powerful two-way player on their side, dominating from the opening tip to the game’s final clutch moments.