No. 11 Villanova Escapes DePaul in First Game of Big East Tournament, 71-70


Gabi Frank/Villanovan Photography

Sophomore guard Lucy Olsen hit a free throw to win the game for the ‘Cats.

Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor

Sophomore guard Lucy Olsen and senior forward Maddy Siegrist combined for the final seven points of the game as No. 11 Villanova escaped a second-half surge from DePaul, 71-70, to advance to the semifinals of the Big East tournament. 

Olsen was fouled on a drive and stepped up to the line, making the first free throw to give the ‘Cats a one-point advantage with 0.7 left on the clock. She would miss the second, denying DePaul a chance to get off a last-second heave. 

“My teammates had my back,” Olsen said postgame when asked about what was going through her mind when stepping up to the line. “They were like ‘You’re good, you do this every day at practice, basketball is fun. Just shoot it, you’ll make it.’” 

Siegrist finished with a game-high 26 on 50% shooting from the field, paired with 14 rebounds. Olsen finished with 19 points. 

“Maddy being such a great player, you have to deny her the ball,” Olsen said of the last possession. “I just knew if my opportunity came, I would have to take advantage of it.” 

The ‘Cats led by as much as nine in the first quarter, but would see their lead dwindle as the game progressed, with the Blue Demons leading by six as late as 1:34 to go in the fourth. 

“Super happy and excited for the team,” head coach Denise Dillon said postgame, “but that was a game where if you watch it back, you’re like, ‘How the heck did we win that one?’”  

The game started as a back-and-forth until the ‘Cats went on a 9-0 run to go up 14-6. Junior guard Maddie Burke had six early points on two threes and finished with eight in the quarter. Siegrist had six early on 3-of-4 shooting. The ‘Cats would close the first with a 20-14 advantage. 

A 14-2 run in the second would give the ‘Cats a lead as large as eight. They would go into the half with that lead, 40-32. The ‘Cats needed every bit of it as DePaul outscored them by seven in the final two frames.  

Sophomore forward Aneesah Morrow and junior guard Kendall Holmes exploded offensively in the second half, combining for 27 of DePaul’s 38 second half points. Holmes hit two crucial 3-pointers late in the game, the latter of which pushed the lead to six with 4:22 to play.  

“I lean on experience,” Siegrist said. “How many times you’ve been in this situation, it feels like a million. We were down 15 with five minutes to go versus St. John’s at home. That’s something we always lean on.” 

The game came down to free throws, with DePaul shooting 4-12 from the line in the second half. Villanova, on the other hand, made 5-of-6 free throws after the break. 

Villanova survives and advances onto the next day of the tournament. It will take on the winner of the game between Seton Hall and Creighton tomorrow at 5:30 P.M. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.