‘Nova climb over Mountaineers

Courtney Scrib

On Feb. 17, at the Pavilion, the Villanova women’s basketball team held off a second-half West Virginia rally to secure a 74-67 victory. The Wildcats improved to 18-5 overall on the season and 8-4 in Big East Conference action.

The win over the Mountaineers (18-7, 9-4) also earned the Wildcats their fourth straight victory and a perfect 10-0 home record.

With their exceptional shooting, the ‘Cats took control of the game early. In the first half, they were 14 of 25 from the floor, including eight of 13 from three-point range.

Leading the way for Villanova were seniors Liad Suez and Kelly Nash and junior Jennifer Hilgenberg, who each scored two three-pointers. Nash finished the game four-of-eight from beyond the arc and made several key plays down the stretch.

“You never know when you’re going to go in and make a play,” Nash said. “Being on the floor is very tense but, also very exciting.” Along with Courtney Mix, Nash led the team in scoring with 14 points.

Going into the second half, Villanova held a 40-31 advantage. In the first eight minutes, though, the Wildcats quickly saw their lead disappear. West Virginia went on a 15-7 run and held Villanova to just 28 percent field-goal shooting in the second half.

The Mountaineers grabbed their first lead of the night at the 11:27 minute mark.

“The problem with the second half was that it was the same as the first half, but we’re not that good of an offensive team to sustain that pace on the court,” Villanova head basketball coach Harry Perretta said. “If the pace of the game is very fast, we eventually are not going to shoot as high of a field goal percentage as our opponents.”

For the rest of the way, the two teams traded leads five different times. Then with 6:59 left to play, Mix, who struggled with fouls for most of the game, converted a three-point play in the paint to give Villanova a 58-53 advantage.

During the last five minutes of the game, several players came up big for the ‘Cats. Nash scored five of her 14 points in the final 4:19, while Kate Dessart Mager scored all four of her points. Hilgenberger, who finished the game with 13 points, made three-of-four from the foul line in the final minute. Overall Villanova went an impressive 21 of 23 from the charity strip.

“That stretch between the four minute mark and one minute mark was where the game was won,” Perretta said.

He also attributed the win to the team’s consistent three- point shooting and solid defense.

“That’s the way our team is,” Dessart Mager said. “There’s never any one set scorer. Anybody at anytime can score any amount of points.”

The game’s 141 total points were the most scored in a Villanova game this season. The Mountaineers, who Dessart Mager called “the toughest West Virginia team (she’d) ever played” also had three players in double figures. While Katie Bulger scored 17 points, Yolanda Page and Meg Bulger had 14 and 10 points, respectively.

“The good thing about our team is that we can play big and we can play small,” Perretta added. “I’ve said this for years – you do not need a big team to win.”

The Wildcats look to continue their winning streak in Saturday’s game against St. John’s. Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Pavilion.