No.11 Wildcats Fall to No. 3 Michigan in NCAA Tournament Second Round


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Lior Garzon (above) drilled three triples in Monday night’s game.

Meghann Morhardt, Co-Sports Editor

After upsetting No.6 BYU in the NCAA Tournament First Round, No.11 Villanova came up short in the Second Round, losing to No.3 host-team Michigan, 64-49, on Monday night. 

The final 15-point deficit for the Wildcats does not tell the whole story as they were within single digits until the fourth quarter, and even when the lead ballooned in the final five minutes, the ‘Cats continued to fight.  

“They (Michigan) came ready to go from start to finish,” Villanova head coach Denise Dillon said. “But, extremely proud of our group for battling ’til the end and giving everything they had as they have all season. So extremely proud of our group and happy with the season overall, but a tough one today.” 

The Wildcats were led by redshirt junior Maddy Siegrist who finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks. While she led the team in scoring, her 12-point performance was the lowest scoring game she has had since the second game of the season, when the team lost to No.4 Maryland. 

“I think they were really aggressive,” Siegrist said of the Wolverine defense. “You know, in hindsight, I should have done a few things differently offensively, but what are you going to do? I mean, I did the best I could.” 

With her second basket of the game, Siegrist officially passed Villanova women’s basketball legend Shelly Pennefather for most points in a junior season, with 684 this year. Siegrist also sits at third on the all-time scoring list with 1,815 points, and with another season of this caliber next year, she will be on track to pass Pennefather for first. 

“She (Siegrist) has another season with us, which we’re excited about,” Dillon said. “And she’s grown each and every year and we’re only expecting bigger and better things in the future.” 

Sophomore guard Lior Garzon and graduate forward Brianna Herlihy joined Siegrist in double-figure scoring with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Garzon kept the Villanova offense going early with three triples in the first half, while Herlihy added two threes of her own to go along with six rebounds and two steals. 

With the loss, Herlihy will be forced to officially hang up her Wildcat jersey after six years with the program. 

“I mean it’s been an incredible six years. Definitely a long time,” Herlihy said. But I mean I just — I can’t thank everyone enough from Villanova. I have learned so many things. I’ve grown so much. I love my team. We’ll be friends forever.” 

Herlihy, as one of just four upperclassmen on the roster, has led the charge for the Wildcats all season, bringing consistent energy in all aspects of the game. Her presence is felt most importantly on the defensive end, leading the team in rebounding and steals with season totals of 254 and 42, respectively. Her relentless effort rubs off on her teammates, especially in big moments like Monday’s game. 

Starting the game with six steals and three blocks in the opening 10 minutes, the ‘Cats were causing early fits for the Wolverine offense. Villanova was able to capitalize on Michigan’s mistakes, scoring 10 points off of seven Wolverine turnovers in the first quarter, giving them a 16-13 advantage heading into the second.

Michigan found its footing and took the lead in the second quarter, but the Wildcats continued to find offensive success to keep the game within reach, trailing by just three at the halftime break. 

The second half was a different story, as the ‘Cats went cold, shooting just 4-of-15 from the field in the third quarter. The Wolverines ended the period on a 6-0 run to take a 48-40 lead into the final quarter. Villanova tried to keep its foot on the gas, but the mental battle of a shooting slump got the best of the Wildcats. 

“I thought we were continuing to share the ball, move the basketball and get some shots. They weren’t falling,” Dillon said. “Then the problem was then on the defensive end, you know, once some shots didn’t fall for us, we didn’t let up on the initial aggressiveness of our game, but the rebounding. We gave too many second, third chance opportunities. And that is only wearing you down a little bit more.”

Rebounding has been a struggle for the Wildcats all season long, as the team is consistently undersized and overmatched on the boards. They have continued to find a way to win despite these challenges, but the 49-25 Michigan rebounding advantage was too much to overcome on Monday night. 

While a loss in the Second Round is not the outcome that Dillon and her team were hoping for, the season was one to be proud of. After being picked to finish fifth in the Big East in preseason coaches poll, the Wildcats proved they were a team to watch, finishing second in the regular season and earning an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. Villanova started the season 3-5, but went on to win 21 of its last 25 games to finish with a 24-9 record, marking the most single season wins since the 2002-03 season. 

“I think this year has been incredibly special just seeing how we’ve grown from the beginning of the season to where we are now,” Herlihy said. “You know, at the beginning of the season it was kind of, we had our ups and downs. We had Maddy out. We had freshmen starting, playing, and it was just kind of a rocky start. But I think it shows how much grit and tenacity this team has in that we were able to make it this far.”