It quickly was made clear that the Villanova Wildcats were ready to play. They would overwhelm the Pitt women’s basketball team and take the win 68-52.
“I thought that the first half was a fabulous game, an unbelievable game, and I’m really proud of my team,” Head Coach Agnus Berenato said. “(Villanova) came out and hit us with a punch and we really rebounded and came right back at them. That shows tremendous growth for me, and improvement, especially with a young team. I was really happy because it looked like, ‘oh my god, it’s going to be a runaway,’ and that’s what Villanova does. Especially after me watching it over and over in the DePaul game.”
This is a team that holds teams to 48 points or under, usually in the low 40s, and so for us to score 52 points, I thought that was really good for us. We outrebounded them and I thought that was important. I thought that, in the second half, the five threes they made—that’s what did us in, and that’s what killed our spirit. We didn’t come back from that. They were five-for-five at that point and then they missed the rest of them. This is a team (Villanova) that made 284 straight threes since 2004. They have not had a game without a three. We knew they were going to have threes. That’s what they do. They spread you out, and they play a very unorthodox or non-traditional type of game.”
Coming into the first media timeout, Villanova was already leading 10-2. They were led by senior forward Laura Sweeney.
Quickly Villanova went to its second team and in its first possession dominated the boards for rebounds and maintained a 13-7 lead going into the second media timeout. Pitt did not do themselves any favors either starting out 2-12 from the field.
The Panthers would come back though as Brianna Kiesel stepped up her game. An Asia Logan three gave the team a 27-25 lead, their first of the game. Loliya Briggs gave the Panthers a needed spark off the bench making a three and getting eight points.
“It felt great,” Logan said. “We know they were going to make threes. It’s just how we react to it, how we bounce back. It was very important to this game.”
As the first half drew to a close Caroline Coyer picked her game up from deep. She had three three point shots and at the break, it was the Wildcats on top by a 33-31 score.
Logan led the Panthers with 11 points at the half. The team shot 40.7% from the field. Still the Wildcats had a 14-8 advantage with points in the paint, 8-0 in points off turnovers and 6-0 in fast break points. The Wildcats attempted 18 three point shots in the first half and made four.
Villanova had another quick start to the second half. It led to a 40-33 lead capped by a Rachel Roberts three.
The lead was put to the test when Brittany Gordon made a three, her second all season but the Wildcats responded with a three of their own. Kiesel however had the last laugh, another three with 14:18 to play in the second half to cut the Villanova lead to 45-41.
The Wildcats again would attempt to pull away and led 50-42 heading into the second media timeout of the second half. This would continue as coming out of the timeout they would bury two more threes and stretch the lead to 57-44.
The Wildcats three point shooting gave them the win and the Panthers fell to 9-6 and 0-2 in the Big East. Logan led all scorers with 21 points in the game on 10-16 shooting. Sweeney led Villanova with 18.
In many statistics the Wildcats also dominated. They had 24 assists for the game and won points in the paints 32-16, points off turnovers 18-5 and bench points 22-15. The Wildcats also shot 56% in the second half.
Despite the loss, Kiesel saw the team’s growth.
“Our team chemistry is so much better,” Kiesel said. “We already have our feet wet from last year. We know what it’s like. We know this is a game of runs, especially in the Big East. You figure someone hits two three’s and they’re up six, but you come down and make four two’s. Now you’re up. It all depends on how well you come back and I thought we came back really well.”
Cora McManus knows that it has been since 2011 since the team has won a conference game but knows that they are in a good position.
“We’re just going to have to bounce back and play hard,” McManus. “We practice hard and play hard. Yeah, it’s been awhile since we got a win, but that doesn’t defeat us at all. We love this game and we’re going to play hard every time.”
Up next is a road test Wednesday at St. John’s.
Of note: Kiesel came out at one point in the second half to get her pinky finger taped up. She did come back out onto the floor. Her finger is not broken as confirmed by a post-game x-ray.
They said it- Berenato on Villanova: “Playing Villanova is like having a root canal.”