Second half surge propels ‘Nova past Providence

Michael Zipf

On Feb. 18, the Villanova women’s basketball team recorded its 15th victory of the season, rallying from an eight point halftime deficit against Providence College. Trailing at the half, the Wildcats used a 13-4 run in the opening 10:14 of the second half to capture a 54-51 victory. The Wildcats were led by senior forward Liad Suez-Karni, who scored 25 of her career-high 34 points in the second half, helping Villanova capture its sixth Big East victory of the season.

“The victory was huge for us for a variety of reasons,” senior center Kate Dessart Mager responded. “It came at time where we could either take a step forward as a team, or take a few steps back. It was also a pretty big moral victory for the team, and it really helped our confidence to come back from an eight point deficit.”

Ultimately, this crucial victory helped to solidify the Wildcats’ position in the Big East Tournament and could prove to be instrumental as the team makes a run towards the NCAA Tournament. Although the players’ primary focus is earning a spot in the Big East Tournament, they recognize that they will probably need to win the next three games and at least one or two games in the Big East Tournament to earn a seed in the NCAA Tournament. With all this in mind, the Wildcats are taking one game at a time hoping that they can build upon their strong second-half performance in their next game against Seton Hall.

With the team trailing 32-24 at the half, the Wildcats recognized they needed to make a couple of adjustments. The team opened up the second half with more intensity especially on the defensive end where the ‘Cats limited the Friars to 19 second-half points. The intense defensive pressure and the incredible shooting of Suez-Karni, who scored 14 of the team’s first 16 points in the second half, propelled the Wildcats to a 43-39 advantage with 8:16 remaining in the second half. However, the Friars managed to claw back and tie the game at 47 before Suez-Karni put the Wildcats ahead for good by connecting on her seventh three-pointer, which is just two shy of the school’s record of nine.

Suez-Karni’s incredible performance marked the 28th time that a Villanova player has reached the 30 point plateau. Her previous career high was 28 points against Boston College on Feb. 26, 2003. Throughout the game, Suez-Karni’s teammates recognized that she was having a special game and looked to feed her the ball.

“Liad was an extremely important factor in the game,” Dessart Mager said. “When Liad is on fire, it is everyone else’s job to get her the basketball. Luckily, she got in the zone at a time when we really needed her to do so, she really stepped up at a time when everyone else was a little flat.”

Suez-Karni finished the game shooting 11-23 from the field, including 7-12 from beyond the arc, and added five rebounds, two assists and one block in 38 minutes of action. Sophomore forward Stacie Whitman was the team’s second leading scorer with six points, connecting on two three point baskets. Senior guard Jenna Viani also made major contributions adding five points, recording a team-high eight rebounds and dishing out four assists.

The team returned to the Pavilion this week to conclude their final two regular season home games. They will face Georgetown on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Wildcats culminate their regular season schedule with a road game against West Virginia on Feb. 28.