Siegrist Scores 37, No. 11 Villanova Beats Creighton in Big East Tourney, 63-61


Gabi Frank/Villanovan Photography

Maddy Siegrist had 37 points in the ‘Cats semi-final victory.

Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor

UNCASVILLE, CT — No. 11 Villanova snuck past Creighton at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday evening, 63-61, to earn a spot in the Big East Championship final. The ‘Cats will face No. 9 UConn Monday night at 7 P.M. Villanova, now with two wins in the Big East Tournament, improves to 28-5 overall. The ‘Cats are also 7-2 in games decided by five points or fewer. Both games in the tournament for the ‘Cats were within five points. 

“I think we knew coming into this tournament that every game was going to be a battle,” senior forward Maddy Siegrist said. “We practice late game situations all the time, just trying to stay calm and execute down the stretch. I think we’ve been able to do that the last few weeks.” 

Siegrist led the team with a 37-point 11-rebound double-double. No other Wildcat reached double figures. Sophomore forward Christina Dalce was a point and a rebound shy of a double-double of her own, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds.  

The game started with the two teams trading buckets, with neither team building a lead larger than four in the first quarter. Siegrist entered double figures with 3:43 remaining in the quarter and would finish the first with 11. 

The Bluejays were hot coming into the second. They made their first seven shots from the floor, taking an eight-point lead at the 2:23 mark of the second quarter.  

“The first half, Creighton was just shooting lights out,” head coach Denise Dillon said. “[They were] getting looks that they wanted, I just felt we were stepping off a little bit.” 

Two threes from Zanai Jones and Brooke Mullin in the last two minutes would cut the Bluejays’ lead down to two. Creighton had a 34-32 at the half. Siegrist put up 20 points on 8-11 shooting in the first 20 minutes. 

Defense prevailed in the third, with both teams combining for just 26 points. The ‘Cats held the Bluejays to just 11 points in the quarter but could only manage to score 15. They took a 47-45 lead into the fourth quarter. 

The fourth was also back-and-forth, with the lead only getting as large as eight for Villanova.  

After an intentional foul call on Dalce with 11.3 seconds remaining in the game, Bluejay junior guard Lauren Jensen stepped up to the line and hit two free throws to cut the ‘Cats lead down to two. The foul call came after a lengthy official timeout and would reverse possession.  

“I don’t think the players were aware of what was happening,” Dillon said of the intentional foul call. “We just looked at them and said ‘Alright, now it’s really time to get the stop that we need.’” 

Since the foul was determined to be intentional, Creighton was awarded possession of the ball. With a chance to tie the game, Jensen drove but missed her shot and Siegrist was able to secure the rebound with 3.4 left to seal it for the ‘Cats. Siegrist had 11 in the fourth.  

“Just one stop,” Siegrist said of the final possession. “That’s how we end practice all the time, you got to get one stop. We weren’t going to bail them out. We knew what we were doing on the screens, and we had to get that rebound. I think we did a good job with that.” 

The ‘Cats will face the Huskies for the Big East Tournament title Monday night at Mohegan Sun. It is the second straight year that Villanova and UConn have faced off for the title, with last year’s game ending in a 70-40 blowout win for the Huskies.  

“Your ultimate goal is to get to that championship game,” Dillon said. “Everyone talks in conference play of winning a championship, so you’ve got to do a lot of work in order to get there. This team has done what’s necessary to get there and they’re familiar with UConn and you know, to beat the best we’ve got to be a lot better, so we’ve got work to do.” 

In this year’s iteration of the tournament, the Huskies have blown out their two opponents, with an average margin of victory of 29.5 points. The Huskies also swept the regular season series against the ‘Cats, with a five-point win at the XL Center and a nine-point win at the Finneran Pavilion. The game is set for a 7 P.M. tip and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.