Rachel Roberts drove down the court. A Louisville Cardinal player was laying injured on the far end of the floor, behind her. Trailing 49-45, with just under a minute remaining, Roberts and the Wildcats had a three-on-one advantage. Rather than taking the breakaway layup, she pulled up, shot from behind the three-point line, and the trajectory looked good.
But it clanged off the back of the rim. That was the story for Villanova's women's basketball team on Sunday afternoon at the Pavilion. The Wildcats fell 55-49 to the No. 12 ranked Louisville Cardinals, bringing their record to 18-8, and 7-6 in the Big East.
There was no specific postgame interview, but I'm sure if there was, Coach Perretta would have said something to the extent of "We just didn't make enough shots". Because that's basically what happened.
They played with toughness, grit, and determination. They buckled down when things got close, and made some key shots to erase an 11-point deficit in a matter of seven minutes. But the shots didn't fall.
For the game, the Wildcats shot 37 percent (19 of 51) from the field, and hit five of 15 from downtown, which on some days would be enough to win. But they shot themselves in the foot in a few clutch situations, and it has led to a 7-6 Big East record.
'Nova shot just one of six from the charity stripe in the second half, including missing the front end of multiple one-and-ones which could have kept the score within reach towards the end.
With the loss, Villanova falls 2.5 games behind Louisville for the coveted fourth spot in the regular season standings. They are eliminated from a double-bye in the postseason tournament, but by winning one of their final three games should be able to secure a single bye and a top half finish in the conference.
Roberts got things going early for the Wildcats, hitting a three for the first points of the game. Louisville then used a quick 11-2 run over three minutes to stake themselves to an early lead.
However, 'Nova's defense was not the cause for the run. At first, many of Louisville's points came from transition. Villanova committed seven turnovers in the first 13 minutes, much higher than their season average. They entered the afternoon averaging just 11 per game. In fact, they finished with 11 on the day as well.
The Cardinals also managed eight offensive rebounds in the first half alone, which led to many second-chance points.
Katherine Coyer scored five points in the final few minutes of the half to bring the score closer, and the Wildcats trailed just 28-24 at the break.
The 'Cats came out with a set strategy in the second half, one that most fans are accustomed to: get the ball to Laura Sweeney down low. Sweeney paced the team with 13 points, and came through with six of them in the first 1:40 of the second half to tie the game at 30-30.
Villanova was in the bonus for the final six minutes of the second half, but Rachel Roberts missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Laura Sweeney did the same a minute later. The Cardinals took advantage of the misses and regained a four point lead with 4:09 remaining. Up until that point, the game was within two points in either direction, almost since halftime.
The 'Cats missed a few more tough layups, but a Rachel Roberts offensive rebound led to a Laura Sweeney bucket with two minutes to play. Louisville's Sheronne Vails made a nice hook shot to make the score 49-45.
With only four second-half fouls to their credit, 'Nova was forced to commit three more to put Louisville on the foul line. They converted the first two, and Devon Kane's layup with 21 seconds remaining brought the difference to four yet again, but they ran out of time down the stretch.
Next up for Villanova is a matchup against St. John's at the Pavilion on Wednesday the 27th, at 7 p.m. The Red Storm carry a 9-4 record into this contest, and are riding a five-game winning streak.