Wildcats upset Fighting Irish at Pavilion

Patrick Mullaney

The Wildcats (11-8, 3-2 Big East) (15-3 Overall, 4-1 Big East) defeated the No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (15-3, 4-1) last Saturday at the Pavilion. In front of a larger crowd than usual, the Wildcats started off strong, bouncing out to a 9-3 lead and holding a 30-20 lead at halftime.

Villanova looked to rebound after a disappointing 67-60 loss to George Washington on Jan. 21. That game marked the 900th game coached by Harry Perretta.

Coming off a week-long break, Notre Dame looked off, not performing at its normally high level. Villanova took full advantage of that in the first half. They began the game with three-straight 3-pointers, and did not look back.

“I thought we lost the game in the first half,” Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw said. “They had three-straight 3s, and I think that set the tone for the game.”

Trailing at the half, Notre Dame did everything it could to get back into the game, coming as close as one point late in the second half. After going on a 9-0 run, Notre Dame trailed 38-37 with 8:54 to go. Villanova stopped the run with a pair of free throws by sophomore Heather Scanlon.

Though the team missed several easy shots in the second half and turned the ball over 15 times, these errors ultimately did not cost the ‘Cats.

“That’s the old philosophy; if you’re gonna turn it over, walk with it,” Harry Perretta said in reference to their turnovers. Such dead ball turnovers did not allow Notre Dame to score fast break points.

He did admit that he was happy, something he rarely admits during the season.

“Sometimes these kids don’t get rewarded for the things they do because they shoot it so poorly, but today they did get rewarded so I was happy for them,” Perretta said.

Through the first 18 games of the season, the Wildcats had a big advantage over the opposition in blocked shots. Villanova has 68 blocks (3.7 per game), while its opponents have only blocked 24 (1.3 per game). Blocks were a big factor again, as they blocked four of Notre Dame’s shots. With 1:18 to go, Villanova senior center Lisa Karcic collected a huge block that effectively ended any comeback hopes for the Fighting Irish.

When asked about Villanova’s possession game, Notre Dame guard Erica Barlow said, “It’s very frustrating,” mentioning how she had to play a full thirty seconds of defense on most possessions. Villanova senior guard Siobhan O’ Connor admitted that, “we could sense that they were frustrated, and that made me feel good.”

Senior Laura Kurz once again led the way for the Wildcats. She finished the contest with 16 points and six rebounds. Kurz’s brother, Rob, played four seasons for Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team.

The ‘Cats were able to hit 10 of 27 3-point shots, while the Fighting Irish only connected on two of their six attempts.

Villanova’s next home game will be against St. John’s on Feb. 4 at the Pavilion.