Balanced Effort Leads the ‘Cats past Butler, 59-44


Courtesy of Olivia Pasquale, Villanovan Photography

Lucy Olsen has played a key role for the ‘Cats on both ends of the floor in her first season.

Meghann Morhardt, Co-Sports Editor

On a team with just four upperclassmen, Villanova has called upon various underclassmen, such as Lucy Olsen, to step up for the team this season. The freshman guard helped the Wildcats to a 59-44 victory over Butler on Friday, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds. 

“I’m still finding my role, but I think we’re getting better everyday,” said Olsen when asked if she’s beginning to feel more comfortable than at the beginning of the season. 

“I’ll tell you, Lucy’s comfortable in the point position,” said head coach Denise Dillon, following Olsen’s humble response. “Her assist to turnover ratio is remarkable for a freshman. With what we asked of her at the beginning of the year, she has held true to it, taking care of the ball and playing defense, and she’s doing just that.” 

In a true team win, the Wildcats played all 12 members of their roster, getting scoring contributions from seven. Junior forward Maddy Siegrist led the ‘Cats with 23 points, 19 in the first half, as well as five rebounds, three blocks, and three steals. Siegrist now has 1,420 career points, sitting just 12 behind 2018 graduate Alex Louin for ninth place on the all-time scoring list. 

Sophomore forward Lior Garzon finished with eight points and three rebounds, while graduate forward Brianna Herlihy and freshman forward Christina Dalce added six points each. 

“[We’re] feeling more comfortable and confident within what we’re doing and you’re seeing that from multiple players,” said Dillon of the team effort. “We know we have scoring option in Maddy, but you’re seeing consistent production from Lior, Lucy, Brianna, and then Brooke [Mullin], Bella [Runyan], and Kaitlyn [Orihel] coming into the game and not missing a beat, giving us a spark we need or just sustaining that level.” 

The ‘Cats were undersized in multiple positions yet again, resulting in the Bulldogs winning the boards by a 45-32 margin. Fortunately for Villanova, Butler was only able to convert its 16 offensive rebounds into 11 points. 

Perimeter defense was key for the ‘Cats in the win. Villanova’s guards put pressure on the Bulldogs’ ball handlers, making interior passing difficult and resulting in 23 Butler turnovers which Wildcats were able to convert into 28 points. 

“Our guards did a really nice job of just being disruptive on their guards,” said Dillon. “We say that it helps with Lucy, Bella, Brooke, their length really eliminates those easy passes into the post. It is a team effort all the time on the defensive end.” 

Both teams struggled offensively in the game with Villanova shooting 23-58 from the field, including 5-19 from behind the arc while Butler finished 15-52 and 3-12 in the respective categories. These offensive woes are unusual for the ‘Cats who have scored 70 or more points in six of their last seven contests. 

“It’s really just continued action. We move the ball well, setting screens, and just the connection from the bench to the court,” explained Dillon of the team’s recent offensive success. “I felt in today’s contest we missed a little bit of that, and it happens. That does happen, but thankfully on the defensive end we did enough to give ourselves a chance to win.” 

Villanova opened the game on a 6-0 run and led by as many as 11 in the first quarter, but the Bulldogs hung around, cutting the lead back to six entering the second quarter. 

The Wildcats made some adjustments at the break and came out with a 5-0 run to extend the lead back to double-digits and force a Butler timeout. The Bulldogs scored two quick baskets, their only points in the quarter, to tighten the lead 24-17. Siegrist responded with a 10-point eruption, sparking a 12-0 run from the ‘Cats to lead 36-17 at the half. 

The second half showed a better effort for the Bulldogs who outscored the Wildcats 27-23 and forced 10 turnovers in the 20-minute stretch, while holding Siegrist to just four second-half points. Butler’s defensive success was much in part to the full court pressure that they implemented, catching Villanova off-guard. The ‘Cats were flustered at first but were able to adjust and get back under control, protecting the ball and finding their offensive rhythm. 

Villanova extended its lead to as many as 24 but Butler remained relentless on the defensive end. The Bulldogs would get within 13, but they could never muster enough offense to overcome the ‘Cats. Dillon emptied her bench with three minutes remaining allowing Villanova’s second team to finish out the game and secure the team’s seventh straight home win. 

With the win, the Wildcats improve to 12-6 on the season, 6-3 in the Big East while Butler falls to 1-16 overall, 0-8 in conference play. Villanova continues its homestand with another Big East matchup on Sunday against Xavier. 

“[We’re] just continuing the challenge to get better any time they step on the floor,” said Dillon. “They’ll certainly be reminded of that tomorrow at practice to get ready for a big game on Sunday.”