Villanova Falls to UConn, 61-50, in Sold Out Home Game


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

Bella Runyan celebrates after scoring a basket.

Brooke Ackerman, Co-Sports Editor

In a conference as competitive as the Big East, effort can only take a team so far, and oftentimes a team’s effort isn’t indicative of what the box score reads. 

That was the case this afternoon as No. 14 Villanova fell to No. 6 UConn, 61-50, in front of a sold out Finneran Pavilion. 

The Wildcats are a team that has not struggled offensively this year, especially with senior forward Maddy Siegrist, who currently leads the nation in points per game.  

But when you put that world class offense up against a tough Husky defense, points are at a premium. 

Villanova went 20-60 from the field, shot 20% from three, and went 50% from the free throw line, whereas the Huskies shot 42.6% from the field and 65.4% from the line. 

“We were getting looks…then second guessing a little bit of those takes,” said head coach Denise Dillon. “That’s part of the game. The mental pieces [are] more crucial than the physical aspect.” 

While the Wildcats struggled offensively, their defensive efforts were stellar. They forced 22 turnovers from UConn throughout the game. 

With the crowd behind them, the Wildcats kept the game close, heading into the locker room at halftime down by just two points. 

And, as Villanova headed into the third quarter of play, an electric white-out Villanova crowd brought the extra energy the Wildcats needed. The crowd, which was the first women’s basketball sellout at the arena since 2004, kept Villanova’s spirits high in a game where it fought for every basket. 

“It’s so exciting,” Siegrist said. “When you look at it, you look at the crowd…the first few minutes you’re like ‘wow, this is awesome’”. 

The fourth quarter started off with the Wildcats trailing by five, but a persistent Husky offense, led by senior forward Lou Lopez Senechal (22 pts, four rebounds), forced the first major shift in the game. Just two minutes into the quarter, UConn’s lead reached double digits. 

But that Nova Nation magic from the Finn was enough to give the Wildcats a burst of energy. Junior guard Bella Runyan and sophomore guard Lucy Olsen put up threes on back to back possessions, sparking a 10-0 Villanova run.

And yet, even with a late run, the Wildcats were not able to capitalize down the stretch against a stellar Husky defense that out-rebounded the ‘Cats, 47-25. 

With the loss, Villanova now fights for a second place finish in the Big East regular season. 

“We talk about every game being the next biggest game for us to stay in that conversation to be in second place,” Dillon said. “Now we see where we fall… [putting] ourselves in the best position for the postseason.” 

With their eyes set on a strong regular season finish, the Wildcats have three more in-conference games remaining. If Villanova wins all three, it will clinch second place. 

The Wildcats will return back to the Finn on Tuesday, Feb. 21 to take on DePaul (15-13, 8-9 Big East). Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.