Women dance on to Sweet 16

Cailin Brophy

Villanova head coach Harry Perretta knows that living and dying by the three-point shot is, in his words, a crapshoot, but for anyone who has followed Wildcat women’s basketball this season, it is looking more and more like a sure bet.

The Wildcats used a barrage of shots from beyond the arc, including eight in the second half, to defeat George Washington 70-52 and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. The last time a Villanova basketball team advanced this far in the tourney was in 1988, when the men’s squad made a deep playoff run. At that time, the current Wildcat women’s team was all under the age of seven.

“This whole season has been like a dream,” senior Trish Juhline said. “For us to be where we are right now is unbelieveable.”

The seventh-seeded Colonials hung with the ‘Cats for the better part of the first half, limiting ‘Nova to only three long-range shots while holding Juhline to just two first half points. Although the ‘Cats held a 27-23 advantage at the break, George Washington was able to tie the score with two quick buckets to open the second half, looking to give the ‘Cats a run for their money. That’s when ‘Nova made its move. In a span of just over 10 minutes, the Wildcats were virtually unstoppable, scoring on 13 of 14 possessions, which included three long-range bombs from both Juhline and her partner in crime, senior Katie Davis, who led all scorers with 24 points and a deadly six-for-nine marksmanship from downtown.

“They’re a very difficult team to defend,” George Washington forward Lindsey Davidson said. “You have a hand in their face and you think, what more can I do? When they drove past us and we recovered late, they’d kick the ball out and it would be another three.”

Sophomore Jen Hilgenberg, the most pleasant surprise for the ‘Cats in Oklahoma, chipped in two three pointers during the hot span as well, en route to yet another strong performance. Hilgenberg finished the opening two rounds of the tournament with 22 points, 14 of which came against George Washington and constituted her career high, while grabbing 14 total rebounds and three assists.

“She’s one of our most athletic players,” head coach Harry Perretta said. “I told the kids before that to win, we need other players to step up. Today she was the offense that we needed.”

Aside from the fine play of Hilgenberg and Davis, the Colonials had to deal with the hustle and bustle of point guard/forward Courtney Mix, who has been a workhorse, playmaker and deal breaker for the ‘Cats all season long. Celebrating her 21st birthday with a berth in the Sweet 16, Mix was all over the floor for ‘Nova, penetrating to the hoop, grabbing boards and creating defensive stops. She finished the afternoon with 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal. Juhline rounded out the double-figure scorers for the ‘Cats, finishing with 11 points, good enough to move her into third place on the all-time leading scorers list at Villanova. Davis’ tenth 20-plus point game this season moved her a notch up the ladder on the same list as well, as she moved up to eleventh place.

The entire team will be looking to move on tomorrow when they face sixth-seeded Colorado in the Mideast Regionals in Knoxville, Tenn. The Wildcats are familiar with the Buffalos, having beaten them on their home court in a 59-54 victory in the Colorado Coors Classic championship game. If the ‘Cats can get by Colorado, they would most likely face No. 1 seed Tennessee in the Elite Eight.