‘Cats rebound with win over Syracuse

Courtney Scrib

Coming off last Saturday’s 38-36 loss at Norte Dame, Villanova’s women’s basketball team looked to rebound with a win over Big East competitor Syracuse. On Tuesday, Jan. 27, the No. 23 ‘Cats defeated the Orangewomen 64-42 and extended their undefeated home record to 8-0. The team now stands at 4-3 in conference play and 14-4 overall.

“We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game,” Villanova head basketball coach Harry Perretta said, referring to the slow pace styles of both teams. “I was just concerning myself today with not giving up the leads and a lot of that is trying to execute.”

In the middle of the first half, the Wildcats’ ability to execute proved too much to handle for Syracuse, which was playing with seven players on their roster. Sophomore Jenna Viani’s three-pointer at the 10 minute mark broke a 7-7 tie and opened a 21-7 run for ‘Nova. For the rest of the game, the closest Syracuse ever came to the lead was seven points.

Top scorers for the Wildcats were junior Jennifer Hilgenberg and sophomore Liad Suez. Suez’ 14 points were a game-high, while Hilgenberg’s 10 points put in her double figures for the sixth time this season.

Villanova’s defense continued to dominate, as well. The Wildcats limited their opponents to 36.2 percent field goal shooting, forced 14 turnovers and blocked six shots.

Although they won the game, Perretta and his team realize the need for improvement. “We missed a lot of opportunities,” senior Courtney Mix said. Mix finished the night with 11 rebounds and 9 assists, just a field goal and an assist shy of her first career triple-double. It was also her third straight double-digit rebounding game.

Hilgenberg agreed. “We won, but there’s so many mistakes that we make that we can’t make,” she said. “If we don’t step it up and stop making these mistakes, we’re not going to get any more wins.”

Perretta attributes these mistakes to the team’s inexperience. “This team has a problem with consistency,” Perretta said. “I’m more lenient with them than I would be with the team last year because they have a lot of young players. Young players are inconsistent, but we’re at the point in the season where they should be a little more consistent than they are.”

On Jan. 24, Norte Dame took advantage of this inconsistency and novice mistakes to grab the win.

In the first eight minutes of the game, senior Kelly Nash hit three shots from behind the arc and helped the Wildcats break out to an early 11-6 lead. Going into the second half, the teams were tied 18-18. After being held scoreless for over five minutes during a key stretch in the second half, the Wildcats once again found themselves struggling to keep the lead.

“We get into these fogs,” Perretta explained, “where we turn the ball over, don’t make the right pass and don’t set.”

With 17.5 seconds left to play and the score tied, Notre Dame forward Jacqueline Batteast scored the game winning points on a pair of free throws. Batteast led all scorers with 14 points. Suez and Mix scored nine each for Villanova.

‘Nova entered the Norte Dame game leading the nation in fewest turnovers per game with 9.3 per contest, but the Irish forced the Wildcats to commit 14, including 10 in the first half. Again, Perretta believes this is a sign of young players.

“It’s not that they don’t know what they’re doing,” Perretta said, “but they get nervous out there. They’re trying to make a play and they get nervous and make mistakes.”

However, inconsistency is not a problem exclusive to Villanova. As Perretta points out, some of the top teams in the Big East, including Miami, who fell to the ‘Cats earlier this month, are losing on the road to teams they have never lost to before. “The bottom line is if you want to win on the road, you must play more consistently,” Perretta said.

Villanova begins their two-game road trip, Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. at Georgetown.