Women’s basketball struggles in tournament

Kevin Pulsifer

The Villanova women’s basketball team dropped both games in its season-opening tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., this past weekend. Both were hard-fought matches that went down to the final possession.

On Friday, the Wildcats opened the 2014-15 campaign against tournament host University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and fell, 49-45. 

The game opened up as a back-and-forth affair, with the game being tied three times in the first 10 minutes. After that, however, ’Nova went scoreless for six minutes until junior guard Kendall Burton hit a mid-range jumper.

That drought was the main cause for Villanova’s first half struggles, as it went into the half down eight points, 27-19. Senior forward Lauren Burford was able to keep the team in the game early on, as she put up 12 of the team’s 19 first-half points. 

She picked up some of the slack after starting junior point guard Caroline Coyer took two fouls early on and had to sit for most of the half.

The Mocs of Chattanooga stormed out of the gate to start the second half, and poor shooting on the ’Cats’ part led to a 16-point deficit with around 12 minutes left. Many teams give up down nearly 20 on the road, but Villanova surely would not.

Sophomore guard Jordan Dillard sank a 3-pointer and Burton scored five points as part of a 14-1 run that put the Wildcats back in the game. 

The Mocs called a timeout, but senior forward Taylor Holeman, junior guard Katherine Coyer and Dillard each chipped in baskets to narrow the UTC lead to three with six minutes to go.

After Chattanooga went on a minor run, Burford and junior forward Kavunaa Edwards contributed a three and some free throws to put the score at 47-45, where it would stay until the final minute of the contest.

Villanova had the ball with the shot clock and game clock running down, but a Caroline Coyer pass to Lauren Burford was deflected and last touched by Villanova. A fouling situation led to two successful free throws, and the Mocs held on 49-45.

Burford led all scorers with 19 points, and Holeman recorded double-digit rebounds. Burton led the Wildcat bench with eight points to lead both squads. 

Burton recorded eight points as a reserve, scoring half of Villanova’s 16 total bench points. Holeman grabbed 10 rebounds for the Wildcats’ only double-digit total. 

Overall, Villanova shot 34 percent from the field, 37.5 from 3-point range and 55.6 percent from the charity stripe on just nine attempts. The Wildcats uncharacteristically committed 13 first-half turnovers on their way to 18 in total, and were also outrebounded 44-37. 

There was a bit of déjà vu on Saturday against the University of South Florida, as the Bulls held off the Wildcats, 57-56. 

Not only was it a low-scoring affair that came down to the final possession, but the manner in which the game developed was also eerily similar.

Villanova trailed by up to 12 points during the first half, but a relatively balanced Wildcat attack was able to cut the deficit down to five at the half. Freshman guard Alex Louin led the team in the opening 20 minutes with seven points, and Burford and Katherine Coyer each chipped in five apiece.

Twin sister Caroline Coyer took the ’Cats on a 10-0 run out of halftime, giving them their first real control of the game. Caroline nailed a shot from behind the arc and followed up the next possession with a mid-range jumper, and Burford scored Villanova’s next five points to end the run. Caroline would hit another 3-point bucket to extend the Wildcat lead to six.

But within the final 12 minutes of the game, there would be 11 lead changes, the last of which came with 1:20 left on the clock. South Florida’s junior guard Courtney Williams hit a jumpshot that gave her 21 points, which led all scorers.

After a few missed shots, fouls and timeouts, Villanova found themselves with the ball, down one, with 27 seconds to play. 

Caroline Coyer’s first shot was blocked, but it went out of bounds and the ball stayed in Villanova’s possession. Burford’s 3-pointer from the top of the key rimmed out, and Louin’s put-back fell short, giving the Wildcats another tough one-possession loss.

Three different Villanovans reached double-digits in scoring in the game, led by Caroline Coyer with 15. Louin finished with 11 and Burford tallied 10. Edwards led the team in rebounds with nine.

After multiple tough-luck finishes, the Wildcats will look to earn their first win of the young season against Cal State Fullerton in southern California tomorrow night. 

The game will be at 10 p.m. eastern time, 7 p.m. PST. The game will be near Taylor Holeman’s hometown, which will be a good moment for the senior, as the last time Villanova was in California, it was six hours north at Stanford University.