Women’s basketball remains undefeated against St. Joe’s 79-44


Margaret Mengel

Senior guard Alex Louin led the team in scoring with 16 points.

Kevin Gamgort

On Sunday, the No. 25 women’s basketball team squared off against St. Joe’s in the annual “Holy War.”

The Wildcats entered the contest with a perfect 6-0 record and a national ranking for the first time since 2004. The ‘Cats were coming off a 62-59 victory over Princeton, in which senior guard Alex Louin led the team in scoring with 16 points. This was just the second home game of the season for Villanova, their last being an upset victory over No. 11 Duke.

The Hawks came into the day with a strong 5-1 record. Their last game was a close contest that ended in a 69-66 loss at the hands of Temple. The scoring leader for the Hawks is junior guard/forward Sarah Veilleux, who averages 16.5 PPG on the season.

It was Star Wars Day at Jake Nevin, in anticipation of the new film being released Dec. 14. The ‘Nova Nation came out strong in their finest Star Wars themed costumes and attire.  The energy for this Big 5 contest could be felt throughout the packed field house.

The ‘Cats got off to a fiery hot start, holding a 13-2 edge at the first time out break with 3:40 left in the first. Villanova was fueled by early contributions from sophomore guard Kelly Jekot and junior guard/forward Jannah Tucker. They showed no signs of slowing down as they led 20-6 at the end of the first quarter. Jekot was on fire in the opening frame, recording eight points while adding two rebounds and an assist. Stellar defensive play was an integral part of their success in the first.

“In the beginning we played really good defense,” Jekot said. “I think I remember the score being 20-6 and that triggered the offense.”

Villanova continued to ride the hot hand of Jekot, who quickly added seven more points as they extended their lead over the Hawks 31-8. The ‘Cats were off and rolling as the Hawks struggled to keep pace. With just under two minutes left in the period, a scary moment happened in the game when Tucker went down with an injury. Although it initially appeared bad, she got up immediately and walked herself to the bench with a standing over from the Villanova faithful.

The ‘Cats entered halftime with a dominant 39-14 lead over St. Joe’s. Jekot averages 11.7 PPG on the season but entered the break with an astounding 18 points, outscoring St. Joes’ point total herself. They matched their season high in first half points with 39, which they also did against American during the Championship game of the TD Bank Vermont Thanksgiving Tournament.

The ‘Cats also recorded 16 first half rebounds while adding 11 assists. They shot 63 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc in the first half. This was one of the strongest performances from Villanova out the gate and they looked forward to continuing this level of play in the second half.

The ball was inbounded to junior guard Adrianna Hahn as the second half got underway. It was a bright spot to see Tucker return for the start of the second half, as her injury was not significant enough to prevail her from continuing to play. Jekot got off to a fast start yet again, knocking down a three to extend the ‘Cats lead 44-16.

After St. Joe’s converted on an and-one opportunity, Tucker knocked down a three to make the score 47-19 in favor of the Wildcats. A Jekot layup followed by incredible ball movement that culminated in a Tucker three, forced St. Joe’s to call a timeout down 52-21.

The ‘Cats appeared to be in sync from the beginning of the game, as they were playing complete team basketball. After being down 56-23, the Hawks began a full court press, in hopes to force turnovers out of the Wildcats. This did not prevail, as the ‘Cats weren’t being slowed down no matter what. The third quarter came to an end with the Wildcats up 61-31.

With only one quarter left, the ‘Cats looked forward to a perfect 7-0 start to the season. With such a large lead heading into the fourth, a variety of Wildcats entered the game and got extended minutes. A total of twelve wildcats saw action in today’s contest, as Villanova defeated Saint Joseph’s by a final score of 79-44.

The Force was strong with the Wildcats from start to finish in this contest. Jekot continued her breakout season with a career-high 27 points. She also added five rebounds, six assists and two blocks to her stat sheet. This was the largest margin of victory for the ‘Cats ever over St. Joe’s. Jannah Tucker also hit double figures in scoring with 13 points. For the game, the Wildcats shot 31-56 (55.4 percent) from the field and 7-19 (36.8 percent) from the three-point line.

The Wildcats played a total team effort, which did not go unnoticed by Head Coach Harry Peretta.

“I just thought it was the most complete game that we’ve played all year,” Peretta said. “It was just one of those games where the ball started going in early, our defense was excellent, and then it just carried over through the whole game.”

St. Joe’s suffered their second loss of the season, one that they look forward to putting behind them. They shot a dismal 16-54 (29.6 percent) from the field and seemed to have no answer for the ‘Cats. This was very upsetting to Head Coach Cindy Griffin, who was critical towards her team.

“We got outworked today,” Griffin said. “This is something we can control which is the unfortunate part, and therefore we need to work on that as a team moving forward.”

With this win, the ‘Cats are off to an impressive 7-0 record and Villanova is one of four schools in the nation to have both undefeated men’s and women’s basketball teams. They look forward to building upon this in their upcoming road game against Fairfield at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.