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“Revenge Game:” Villanova Advances to WBIT Semis with 67–59 Defeat of St. Joe’s

Courtesy of Villanova Athletics
The Wildcats will travel to Indianapolis, IN for the inaugural WBIT semifinals on April 1 against Penn State.

Villanova defeated Saint Joseph’s, 67–59, in a Philadelphia face-off at the inaugural WBIT quarterfinals on Thursday, March 28.

The Wildcats came off a resounding 73–55 win over Virginia in the second round on March 24.

Much of the win belonged to the standout performance of senior guard Bella Runyan. In her last career game at the Finn, Runyan tied her career-high 16 points on perfect three-point shooting.

“We’ve said it for years, Bella Runyan is our glue, our motor and she’s given us everything she has,” head coach Denise Dillon said. “We’ve always wanted to see her rewarded on the offensive end because of her effort on the defensive end. For her to knock down some big shots and leave it here on her home court is special.”

After scoring 30 points against Virginia, junior guard Lucy Olsen was confronted by an intense Saint Joseph’s defense. Olsen still managed to record 16 points, four rebounds and two assists on the night, with all of her points coming in the second half.

Major contributions off the bench also came from freshman guard Brynn McCurry, who reached her career best with six assists.

Junior forward Christina Dalce knocked down Villanova’s first four points along with two blocks in the opening five minutes. Dalce finished the game with a double-double, recording 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Hawks had a slow start, missing their first five shot attempts and going just 3-of-16 from the field in the first period.

The first ten minutes ended with Villanova ahead, 14–9.

The ‘Cats maintained their lead throughout period two.

A three-pointer from Runyan put Villanova up, 25–26, prompting Saint Joseph’s to call a timeout with six minutes left until halftime.

The home advantage continued to stretch, as the Wildcats limited the Hawks to 32 percent shooting in the first half.

Another Runyan three increased the deficit to twelve with under four minutes to go in the second period.

Olsen had an uncharacteristic first half with no points, two personal fouls and just one field goal attempt in her ten minutes on the court. Other Wildcats immediately stepped up to fill in the offensive gap.

Runyan had a dominant first twenty minutes, scoring 13 points and going 3-of-3 from the long range. Junior guard Zanai Jones also recorded eight points in the first half.

“We’ve been playing our best team basketball late [in the season],” Dillon said. “When you have a player like Lucy [Olsen] and they’re running two at her, you have to all be an option out there and I’m really pleased that we are.”

The Wildcats went into the locker room leading by double-digits, 36–26.

Olsen began the second half with a pair of successful free throws. She made more of her usual impact on the court in the third period, notching seven points and freeing herself from Saint Joseph’s double-teaming.

“I got a little frustrated, but my team had my back,” Olsen said. “We figured it out and picked it up in the second half, which was a relief.”

Villanova slowed down offensively after the half, shooting just 5-of-15 from the field in the third period, but stayed ahead with the help of the well-established advantage.

The Wildcats went into the third quarter still on top, 49–43.

Saint Joe’s threatened late in the game, coming within five points in the beginning of period four. The deficit narrowed to three after two successful foul shots for the Hawks with just over six minutes left to play.

Olsen kept the Hawks away, scoring Villanova’s next five consecutive points. McCurry added another shot in the paint off an offensive rebound from Jones to regain the ten-point lead.

It was a six-point game as the clock reached the final minute. 

The Wildcats refused to let the Big 5 rival sabotage a trip to the WBIT semifinals. 

In a critical moment, McCurry forced a turnover from the Hawks and made a swift pass to Dalce, who scored on a layup in the paint.

“[McCurry] handled the pressure down the stretch and she didn’t look like a freshman out there,” Dillon said.

The Hawks could not find a way back, and Olsen ended the game with two more free throws.

The defeat of the Hawks was also of personal significance to the ‘Cats after falling, 73–67, on Dec. 9. It was the first time the Villanova and Saint Joseph’s programs have seen each other twice in one season.

“Right when we found out we were playing [Saint Joseph’s], we were all like, ‘let’s go, a revenge game,’” Runyan said. “We lost [in December] when we shouldn’t have. We were really young and a totally different team. The same thing happened where we’re up and they inch back, but this time you see the growth and how much we’ve matured to be able to sustain that lead.”

With another major win, Villanova moves onto the WBIT semifinals on April 1 against Penn State (22–12) in Indianapolis, IN.

Tip-off at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse against Penn State is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis, Co-Sports Editor
Katie Lewis is a sophomore from Miami, FL in her first year as Co-Sports Editor in 2024. From covering games to writing features and profiles, she loves to find the story behind Villanova sports. Pursuing her enthusiasm for writing and journalism in her studies at Villanova, Katie is double-majoring in English and Communication with concentrations in Journalism and Writing & Rhetoric. When Katie isn’t at Holy Grounds working on her next article, she enjoys playing tennis with Villanova’s club team.
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