Women’s basketball upsets No. 11-ranked Duke in season home opener


Ryan Bowman/VU Hoops

Seniors Alex Louin (left) and Megan Quinn embrace after the Wildcats’ 64-55 win over No.11-ranked Duke.

Kevin Gamgort

On a chilly Sunday afternoon, the women’s basketball team faced off against No. 11 Duke at Jake Nevin Pavilion in their 2017-18 season home opener. The fans were loud from the start, as they could not wait for this contest to get underway. This was just the third time that Villanova and Duke have faced off, and the Wildcats fell to the Blue Devils last season 68-50 in Durham, N.C.

Entering this game, the ‘Cats were a perfect 2-0, coming fresh off a dominant 62-42 victory over Lehigh. However, they knew it would take a full team effort in order to continue the win streak against a top ranked Duke team.

The first period was a back and forth, fast paced contest. Duke possessed the lead early but the ‘Cats quickly crawled back. The crowd erupted just before the one-minute mark when Adrianna Hahn nailed a three pointer to tie the game at 10. Duke guard Lexie Brown hit a jump shot to make the lead 12-10 at the end of the first, in favor of the Blue Devils. The senior is the leading scorer for the Blue Devils, with an average of 18.5 points per contest. As expected, she got off to a hot start, scoring eight of Duke’s 12 points in the first period. The Wildcats knew they needed to contain her in order have a chance in the second period.

The Wildcats got off to a slow start in the second period. After a free throw extended the Duke lead to 13-10, Kelly Jekot hit a three pointer to tie the game at 13. At this point, Duke went on a 10-0 run to extend the lead to 23-13. The Wildcats had many opportunities during this period yet their shots were not falling. Shots started to fall as Jannah Tucker added five points during this stretch. The ‘Cats cut the lead as the Blue Devils went into the half leading by a score of 28-22. In a tight contest, in which the momentum was swinging all throughout the first half, the Wildcats were confident with the way in which they competed with a top-ranked opponent.

Both teams came out from their respective locker rooms and warmed up as the second half was about to begin.

The Wildcats came out on fire in the second half and got off to a 10-2 run. With an up tempo offense, the ‘Cats were too much for Duke to handle. This energy culminated in a go ahead three-point ball from Alex Louin, to give the Wildcats a 32-30 edge. Louin was also fouled on this play and made the free throw to extend the lead to three. The ‘Cats did not slow down from this point on. Jekot knocked down yet another three to give the ‘Cats a double digit lead, 45-34, with a little over a minute left to go in the period. Duke answered back with a layup from Erin Mathias, but this was countered by a three-point ball from Louin. Jake Nevin was shaking as the fans cheered on the ‘Cats who headed into the final period with a 48-36 lead, outscoring Duke 26-8 in the third. The Wildcats were just ten minutes away from their third win of the season, and a shocking upset.

As the fourth was began to set, it was time for the fans to buckle up their seat belts, as this was going to be quite a ride. Tucker continued the momentum in the fourth by knocking down yet another three-pointer to extend the ‘Cats lead, 50-36. Riding the hot hand of Jekot (more like Jekpot) the ‘Cats did not slow down at this point en route to a 64-55 upset over No. 11 Duke.

It was a phenomenal team effort, full of unselfish play and spectacular ball movement. The Wildcats finished with 15 assists, as Hahn led the team with five herself. The three-point ball was falling for the ‘Cats, especially in the second half. They hit 15-40 three-point attempts, which equaled out to an astonishing 37.5 percent from beyond the arc for the game. The star of the contest was Jekot, who scored 23 points and shot 8-14 from the field, 7-9 from three-point land. Jekot credited her teammates towards her success against Duke on Sunday afternoon.

“Our guards were able to fill the gaps and our forwards were able to pass the ball to me which led me to be wide open and thanks to them I think overall we were able to be successful from the three-point line,” Jekot said.

Alex Louin registered 17 points and nine rebounds as Jannah Tucker added 10 points to round out the scoring leaders.

The energy from the fans at Jake Nevin gave the Wildcats a clear home court advantage, something that Louin expanded upon during the press conference.

“We were able to feed off their energy and after we got that first bucket of the game, the fans erupted and were able to maintain that same amount of enthusiasm throughout the rest of the game, which definitely pushed us and empowered us for the rest of the game,” Louin said.

There was a different vibe in Jake Nevin, one that was full of more energy and enthusiasm than usual. All-American Duke Guard Brown, who led the team with 16 points, had positive things to say about the gym.

“I loved it and had a lot of fun out there,” Brown said. “The atmosphere was great, the fans were great. That could have been a fun game for us but we just didn’t make it one.”

Although it wasn’t a fun game for Brown and the Blue Devils, it was quite a day for Nova Nation. This victory over the Duke will go down as one of the most memorable days in recent women’s basketball play. Not only was it a memorable day, this win also propelled the ‘Cats to a 3-0 record.

The ‘Cats are back in action on Friday for the Vermont Thanksgiving Tournament against JMU in Burlington, VT.