The Student News Site of Villanova University

The Villanovan

The Villanovan

The Villanovan

Villanova Off to WBIT Championship Game After Conquering Penn State 58–53

Courtesy of Villanova Athletics
Junior guard Lucy Olsen scored 21 points in Villanova’s 58–53 win over Penn State on Apr 1. Villanova now advances to the inaugural WBIT Championship Game on April 3 against Illinois.

Although the Wildcats weren’t in the Final Four that they wanted, they stepped into Hinkle Fieldhouse for the inaugural WBIT semifinals on April 1 with just as much determination to leave with a victory.

No. 1 seed Villanova was bolstered by its balanced offense and a third-quarter offensive explosion as it defeated No. 1 seed Penn State, 58–53, at the historic arena in Indianapolis, Ind.

“It’s tremendous,” head coach Denise Dillon said. “To be playing in April is unbelievable. Our young women who didn’t finish the year, regular season or conference play how they wanted, had an opportunity to continue to play. They regrouped, refocused and reconnected…and then they got the taste of a couple of wins early, and just were feeling it.”

Three Wildcats finished in double-digits. Junior guard Lucy Olsen led with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists. Thirteen points and five rebounds went to junior guard Kaitlyn Orihel. 

After tying her career-high 16 points in Villanova’s latest 67–59 win over St. Joseph’s on March 28, senior guard Bella Runyan continued her postseason offensive impact with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Freshman guard Maddie Webber remained sidelined with a knee injury after missing the WBIT quarterfinals on March 28. Orihel replaced Webber’s spot in the starting five.

Orihel gave the ‘Cats their first bucket immediately after the jump ball, and two minutes later knocked down a three-pointer. She led Villanova through the first quarter along with Runyan. They both added five points.

Tight defense from Penn State locked Olsen with 0-for-2 shooting in the first quarter, recalling the St. Joseph’s double-teaming that prevented the leading scorer from recording a field goal until the second half. However, Olsen soon found ways to break free, scoring seven points in the second period, five in the third and nine in the fourth.

While the Lady Lions led, 13–12, in the final seconds of the first quarter, the ‘Cats did not let a moment go to waste. 

Olsen made a swift steal at four seconds and passed the ball to junior guard Zanai Jones. Jones charged down the court and scored, putting Villanova up by one point going into the first break.

Penn State started the second quarter ahead by a narrow margin. The Lady Lions scored a three-pointer to hold their last lead of the game, 20–19, with just under eight minutes to go until halftime.

Stifling defense from both teams kept the scoreboard low. Villanova limited Penn State to just 3-of-16 shooting across the ten minutes.

“The ball wasn’t falling for us like it has the last three games, but our defense sure was on point, and that gave us a chance to be successful,” Dillon said.

After a personal foul on Orihel, Penn State added a pair of successful free throws to go into the half behind, 26–24.

Villanova emerged from the locker room with newfound offensive fire. The ‘Cats surged up to 57 percent shooting from the field in the third quarter while holding the Lady Lions to under 25 percent shooting. Villanova also capitalized on Penn State turnovers, which resulted in eight points across the period.

The Wildcats developed a more steady lead across the third period. A shot in the paint from junior forward Christina Dalce and a layup from sophomore forward Megan Olbrys gave Villanova a 10-point lead going into the final ten minutes.  

A mid-range jumper from Olsen and powerful block from Dalce in the first minute showed Penn State that a comeback would be a challenge.

However, the Lady Lions slowly worked away at the deficit as the Wildcats lost their shooting momentum. Villanova shot just 2-of-10 in the fourth quarter, with only Olsen scoring. 

Free throws instead determined the trajectory of the game after Penn State went on an 8–0 run. Six points came from the free throw line, creating trouble for the ‘Cats and putting the Lady Lions within two points as the last minute of regulation approached.

“For us, everything was one stop at a time, and if something didn’t go our way on offense, we were determined to get it back on defense,” Orihel said. “Every timeout, we talked about being in the present moment. So if something didn’t go our way, we were trying to focus on the next play, and I think that’s what helped us win today.”

As the teams traded points from the foul line, the Wildcats successfully maintained the lead to secure a place in the WBIT championship game.

Villanova will stay in Indianapolis to face Illinois on April 3 at 7:00 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Villanovan
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of The Villanovan with technological needs, training, etc!

More to Discover
About the Contributor
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.
Donate to The Villanovan
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Villanovan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *