Villanova takes down FGCU, 76-57, to Secure Sweet 16 Spot


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

Siegrist and Olsen celebrate on the bench as time expires.

Brooke Ackerman, Co-Sports Editor

Who doesn’t love a good dynamic duo? Especially when they’re both shooters. 

In No. 4 Villanova’s commanding 76-57 second round win over No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast Monday night, senior forward Maddy Siegrist and sophomore guard Lucy Olsen were that dynamic duo. 

Siegrist dropped 31 points to break the NCAA D1 record for most consecutive 20 point games, while Olsen scored a career-high 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists. 

With those numbers, the two powerhouses combined for 54 of Villanova’s overall points. However, if you ask Siegrist, it’s the hair braider or cheerleaders on the bench that make the team.

“Kylie Swider…she braids everyone’s hair before the game…that’s something little but that’s something that you know really brings the team together,” Siegrist said. “Megan Olbrys — she’s out with an arm injury and you wouldn’t know it the way she sits on the bench — she’s the loudest one. Everyone just had a role [and] does it really well. I think when you have a team like that, a lot of special things can happen.” 

With the support from a full team and help from a packed Finneran Pavilion crowd, the Wildcats got to work right away, shooting 60% from the field in the first quarter. 

Siegrist dominated down low, reaching double digits in the first ten minutes, while Olsen chipped in with eight of her own to send Villanova into the second quarter up, 25-11. 

“She’s the best player, she’s just so versatile, she scores in so many ways,” FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said about Siegrist. “Olsen was fantastic today too. When we did make a run, those two picked it up and suddenly six [became] 10 again.”

Despite trailing heading into the second quarter, a fierce FGCU offense relentlessly tried to get back into the game. When sophomore forward Christina Dalce got into foul trouble, the Eagles took advantage of the void in Villanova’s defense. 

“[Dalce’s foul trouble] just changes the whole setting because our mentality was inside out on the offensive end, but now you’re only relying on Maddy on the inside,” Villanova head coach Denise Dillon said.

In the second quarter, FGCU shot 53% from the field, led by graduate guard Sha Carter. Carter used her strength down low to contribute to the Eagles’ 22 points in the frame, cutting the Villanova lead to six. 

However, after halftime, the Wildcats settled back into play right away, regaining their double digit lead less than two minutes into the half. 

“I think the greatest thing about this team has been, you know, it’s not just about Maddy…[everyone] was contributing and making shots,” Dillon said. 

The Wildcats headed into the final quarter of play up 16 points, and from there, it was smooth sailing. 

Villanova continued to maintain its commanding lead, allowing Dillon to sub out her starters early. When Siegrist left what could be her final game at the Finn, she was met with a standing ovation. 

A full substitute lineup then took the court with just over a minute remaining, allowing the entire team to relish in their final home game of the season. 

“You’re not passing that opportunity up,” Dillon said about the ‘Cats celebrating post game. “You have to enjoy those moments, or you’re gonna lose the innocence of the game. We’re gonna soak it up as much as [we] can, and then re-group.” 

With the win, Villanova will continue dancing into the Sweet 16 in Greenville, South Carolina. It will take on No. 9 Miami, as the Hurricanes upset No. 1 Indiana in the second round. This is the Hurricanes’ first Sweet 16 appearance in 31 years. 

The Wildcats will have a rest day tomorrow before heading south to face Miami on Friday, March 25. Tip off is set for 2:30 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN. 

Villanova will be appearing in its first Sweet 16 since 2003. However, the Wildcats — and their opponents — think they have the talent to go further than that.

“Villanova’s a Final Four level team,” Smesko said. “To me, that’s how good they are.”