WBB: Wildcats win first two rounds of NIT in dramatic fashion



Allison Venella

It has been a roller coaster season for the women’s basketball team, but the Wildcats reached their peak last week, beating American University and Wisconsin in the NIT tournament. The team was selected to play in the NIT field of 48 teams, and after securing two wins, the Wildcats have advanced to the third round. Villanova entered the tournament with a 15-15 record and currently sit at 17-15 after its postseason victories.

This trip to the NIT tournament marks the eighth time in the last nine seasons the team has made it to a tournament. Villanova’s record now sits at a 4-4 record in NIT games.

American was granted an automatic bid to the NIT tournament and traveled up to Villanova last week for the opening round of the tournament. American won the Patriot League title and posted a season record of 18-13 before facing Villanova.

Villanova had the lead at the half, 27-23, and held on to the lead for most of the remainder of the game.

American went ahead off a layup with a little over five minutes to go, taking the score to 46-44. But Villanova answered back, as sophomore Tia Grant got a layup and junior Laura Kurz regained the Wildcat lead off of a jumper.

Kurz ended the night with 13 points – the only Wildcat in double figures. Kurz suffered an ankle injury in the first three minutes of play but was okay to continue in the game. Junior Lisa Karcic was sidelined in the game, and her presence on the court was definitely missed. Freshman Shannon Elliott added eight, and Grant and junior Siobhan O’Connor both scored nine.

At the 16:43 mark in the second half, O’Connor drained a 3 for a record-breaking shot that took Villanova over the NCAA record for made 3-point shots in a season. O’Connor also made the record-tying shot right before halftime. The Wildcats tallied five 3-pointers against American, taking their made 3-pointers total to 306, just passing the record held by Missouri State at 305 in a season. The ’07-’08 squad also passed the Villanova record for three-pointers in a season, where the previous record was 304. Villanova averaged more that 26 3-point attempts per game this season.

However, the most exciting part of the game came with two minutes left to play as a buzzer-beater shot by Kurz sent ‘Nova to the second round of the tournament.

Villanova took the lead at 51-48 with just over two minutes to play. Liz Leer made two straight shots for the Eagles – the second one with just under 10 seconds to go – to put the Eagles up 52-51. Villanova had one more chance to take the game when senior Stacie Witman missed a jumper, but Kurz grabbed the rebound and put the shot back up to win the game in dramatic fashion. The final score was 53-52.

With the win against American, Villanova advanced to face the Wisconsin Lady Badgers, one of the 16 teams that had a first-round bye in the tournament. Head Coach Harry Perretta did not travel to Wisconsin because of a death in his family. The team had some major travel delays in the journey. First, weather problems canceled the team’s first flight out of Philadelphia, and then its second flight could not land in Milwaukee due to the weather and had to land in Appleton, Wis. The team then had to drive to its final destination.

Villanova persevered through the travel problems and went on to beat Wisconsin by a score of 60-54.

The Wildcats made 7-of-9 3-pointers in the second half, shooting 57 percent. Witman scored a total of 17 point in the game after just scoring four against American. Witman also added five rebounds and five assists, while Kurz added 15 points and seven rebounds.

Sophomores Maria Getty and Grant, along with Weiss, combined for 22 points in the second half. Getty ended the game with six points, Grant finished with seven and Weiss tallied nine in her season-high.

In the third round, Villanova will play away at Colorado tonight at 9 p.m.