WBB: Hot start not enough to sink Pirates

Michael Zipf

Looking to avenge their eight-game losing streak and avoid recording a ninth consecutive defeat, the women’s basketball team (7-17, 1-10 Big East) opened up the first half of its game against Seton Hall (15-8, 7-5 Big East) this past Sunday. The Wildcats had a 34-22 lead with two minutes left in the first half, ignited by a 7-out-of-10 performance from beyond the arc. Junior forward Stacie Whitman proved to be the catalyst for the ‘Cats, recording a career-high 26 points while pulling down a team-high seven rebounds. Seton Hall, who appeared sluggish in the first half of the game, closed Villanova’s lead to 34-26 at the end of the first half with two jumpers by junior guard Ela Mukosiej. Grabbing a half-time lead was critical for the Wildcats, who had trailed at the half during their three previous outings, all resulting in losses. In addition, six of Villanova’s seven victories this season have occurred after leading at the half.

However, Seton Hall erased Villanova’s half-time advantage with a 14-5 run in the early minutes of the second half to cut the 10-point Wildcat lead down to one with 11 minutes left to play. Seton Hall captured their first lead of the game when senior forward reserve Monique Blake connected on back-to-back 15-foot jumpers to give the Pirates a 47-46 lead. Nevertheless, the Wildcats continued to claw and fight, regaining the lead off a Whitman layup with 5:06 left in the game. Whitman, who had ignited and propelled the ‘Cats all game, scored 15 of Villanova’s 17 points in the second half. However, with the ‘Cats up 48-47, consecutive baskets by Mukosiej prevented a Villanova victory as Seton Hall took a 51-48 lead with one minute left in regulation. Seton Hall captured its 16th win of the season, while handing the Wildcats their longest losing streak in school history.

Although the Wildcats’ efforts fell short, Whitman and red-shirt freshman Maria Getty had solid performances. Whitman and Getty proved to be the Wildcats’ two leading scorers, contributing 26 and eight points respectively. Whitman, who recorded more than half of Villanova’s total score, was 5-for-7 from 3-point range in 35 minutes of action. In her last six contests, Whitman has averaged a team-high 17.5 points. As a team, Villanova shot extremely well from beyond the arc, connecting on 10-of-16 shots. However, the ‘Cats’ inability to find a second offensive option besides Whitman, along with their lack of rebounding, led to their demise. Throughout the game, Seton Hall controlled the ball inside the paint, earning a 40-26 rebounding advantage and doubling Villanova’s points in the paint.

Villanova now prepares to engage in two Big East matchups against rivals and national powerhouses Notre Dame and Rutgers.

In an interview with “‘Nova Nation All-Access” prior to the season, co-captains Whitman and senior Jackie Adamschick stressed the importance of serving as leaders and role models for such an inexperienced team.

“It’s important for us to be leaders and help the younger members of the team grow,” Adamschick said.

It’s clear that the team will need major contributions from its underclassman in order to upset the Irish and the Scarlet Knights.