Women’s basketball competes in Gulf Coast Showcase

Brett Klein

The women’s basketball team headed south to Naples, Fla., for the long Thanksgiving weekend and dropped two of its three games in the eight-team Gulf Coast Showcase. 

In the first round on Nov. 28, the Wildcats took on the Sun Devils of Arizona State and fell narrowly by five points, 51-46. The loss forced them into the losers’ bracket for a date with Georgia Tech the next day, which the ’Cats lost 71-63. The Wildcats were victorious in the third and final game, though, beating College of Charleston by 19. 

After this past weekend’s play, the Wildcats’ record slipped to 2-4 on the young season. 

Despite eventually coming up short against Arizona State, the Wildcats were within striking distance the whole game—they even held the lead late in the second half. With the game tied and just over 12 minutes remaining, the ’Cats used a quick 9-2 run to grab a seven point advantage.

Freshman guard Alex Louin started the run with two free throws, followed by junior forward Kavunaa Edwards knocking down a three to push the lead to five.  

After an Arizona State bucket, junior guard Caroline Coyer and Edwards scored back-to-back baskets to put the ’Cats up 37-30 with eight and a half minutes left to play. 

Villanova’s rapid scoring pace didn’t last, however, and Arizona State cut the Wildcats’ lead to three with fewer than four minutes to play. Still, the ’Cats were able to bump their lead back up to six, 46-40, before the tide began to turn against them. 

Junior guard Katie Hempen started the Sun Devils’ run with a three from the right wing, which slashed the ’Cats’ lead in half. On the ensuing possession, Louin was charged with an offensive foul and the ball went back to Arizona State. 

Trailing by three, Hempen pulled up and connected from beyond the arc once again to knot the score at 46. 

Villanova’s offensive misfortunes continued as Coyer turned the ball over on the Wildcats’ next possession, which swung the momentum even further in their opponent’s direction. Over the final minute of game, the Sun Devils produced five unanswered points to secure the win, while Villanova’s attempts to pull even missed their marks. 

“Unfortunately our experienced players have to play a lot of minutes,” Head Coach Harry Perretta said. “And they make a lot of mistakes, which hurt us down the line in some of those critical game situations.”

Unlike the Arizona State game, the ’Cats were playing catch-up throughout the contest against Georgia Tech, but simply could not muster enough points to complete a comeback. A bright spot for Villanova in the game was Coyer, who scored a career-high 21 points including four 3-pointers. 

“We went down by 15 in the first half,” Coyer said. “So in the second half we knew that we had to be more aggressive shooting ball against their zone.” 

At the end of the first half, the Wildcats had dug a sizable hole for themselves as they trailed by 15, 40-25. In the half, the Yellow Jackets shot almost 58 percent from the field, while the ’Cats shot just 28 percent from the floor. 

Georgia Tech maintained a 17-point lead eight minutes into the second half, but that is when the Wildcats began to stage their comeback. To start things off, Coyer went on a 6-0 run by herself—using a 3-point shot and a conventional three-point play to draw her team within 11. 

“[Caroline Coyer] is beginning to understand that she has to be more assertive,” Perretta said. “Because of the injuries on our team.”

With six minutes to play in the game, the ’Cats cut the lead to six, 62-56, thanks to back-to-back threes from Edwards and a jumper from senior forward Taylor Holeman. The momentum shifted back and forth for much of the remainder of the game, which resulted in Villanova trailing by five with 36 seconds left. Unfortunately for the ’Cats, Georgia Tech was able to seal the win with a few clutch free throws. 

Ultimately, the Wildcats could not overcome the commanding lead that Georgia Tech built in the first half.

“We should have been much more focused and much smarter defensively in the first half,” Coyer said. “And we would have never gotten down by so much. The last 12 minutes of the game I think we did everything we possibly could to come back and I was really proud of how my teammates and I fought coming down the stretch.” 

In spite of the two losses to begin the tournament, Perretta was able to seek out the rallying points for the team going forward. 

“Our younger players are beginning to learn and are playing extremely hard,” he said. “In addition to that, our inexperienced players are getting a lot of playing time because we need them.” 

In the final game of the weekend, the Wildcats overwhelmed College of Charleston to win 60-41. 

The ’Cats used an early 16-0 run to grab a 12-point lead that they would never relinquish. During the run, Coyer, Edwards and senior forward Lauren Burford combined to knock down four 3-point shots. Burford led Villanova in scoring in the game with 17 points. 

The ’Cats held a 12-point lead at halftime, but a 7-0 College of Charleston run to begin the second half cut that advantage to just five points. Over the next 10 minutes, though, Villanova dominated play and the lead ballooned to 20 with just over six minutes remaining. 

During the scoring spurt, Burford nailed another three and Louin registered a three-point play in the midst of a 9-0 Villanova run. 

Villanova’s next contest will be against St. Joes on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m.