Talk about a welcome home game. The Villanova Wildcats took on the No. 11 Duke Blue Devils in their first official home game of the season at Jake Nevin Field House on Sunday, the first time it was used for an official collegiate basketball game in nearly three decades.
So far, so good for the Wildcats in their temporary new home, as they went on the win 64-55, upsetting the 11th ranked team in the nation.
Looking at the stats, it certainly wasn’t obvious Villanova was going to win this game. They shot 23 percent from the field in the first half, were outrebounded by 15, and only scored 2 points in the paint. Despite the differences with Duke, who had beaten Villanova inside and on the glass, the Wildcats still kept the game close to start. They knew they wouldn’t necessary have to win those stat battles on paper.
“We knew the key to the game would be shooting the three, and we shot 40 of them so I think we succeeded on that aspect,” Villanova head coach Harry Perretta said after the game. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to beat them inside—we can’t play that kind of game against good teams and we know that.”
Duke led 28-22 at the half, and both teams were struggling to get any offensive momentum going. Alex Louin was scoreless through the first two quarters of play, while Adrianna Hahn and Kelly Jekot were having quiet games. They were following Perretta’s plan and had attempted 20 three-pointers, but they simply weren’t falling.
Then the second half began, and out came a brand new Villanova team.
The Wildcats came out in the second half on fire, going on an 11-0 run early in the third quarter, highlighted by a Jannah Tucker three-pointer and a four-point play from Louin.
Duke’s All-American star player, Lexie Brown, picked up her fourth foul with 6:42 left in the quarter, which forced her to the bench, and ‘Nova capitalized.
Brown paced the Blue Devils with 16 points, but her partner in crime Rebecca Greenwell couldn’t it going against a tough Wildcat defensive effort. Greenwell finished with nine points and shot just 4-of-14 on the floor.
Meanwhile, a trio of three-point baskets from Jekot, Louin, and Hahn in the closing minutes of the third quarter gave Villanova a sudden 12 point lead going into the fourth. Louin and Jekot combined for 20 points in the third and the team made seven three-pointers.
“They started moving the ball a lot better and hitting their shots in the second half,” said Duke head coach Joanne McCallie. “It comes down to defensive leadership, and the five we have out on defense have to be able to communicate, and that just didn’t happen in the second half.”
“The crowd really got us going in the third quarter,” Louin said. “Their eruption after [the four-point play] really fueled us and the crowd helped us keep that momentum going.”
The ‘Cats took their double digit lead into the final quarter and maintained it, keeping Duke at bay.
“We had three had three offensive rebounds in a row one possession that went 90 seconds or something—that’s really big when you can run over a minute off the clock without having to take a shot or get fouled, especially up 10,” Perretta said, praising the team’s drive towards the ball especially on offense.
Duke made a few swipes at a comeback but could not get anything going, and Villanova held on for the nine-point victory.
“I thought we had decent ball movement in the first half, certainly not as good as the second half but enough to stay in the game,” Perretta said. We were lucky to be in the game after the first half. When shots started falling, good things happen.”
Jekot finished with a game-high 24 points and was 7-of-9 from three-point range. Louin added 17 points and nine rebounds. Tucker had 10 points, while Hahn chipped in nine points and five assists.
Jake Nevin certainly looked good in its official debut for the women’s basketball team.
“For me it certainly wasn’t anything,” Perretta joked. “I’ve played in so many gyms over the years and to go back here, it wasn’t that special. It’s definitely different than playing in the Pavilion though.”
As for the Wildcats, the change in scenery was appreciated, and it especially helped having a big win to start things off.
“I liked it,” Jekot said, laughing. “Our fans were great, and I think it was cool especially for the seniors to have this kind of game and support as the first home game.”
The Wildcats move to 3-0 overall and add a top 15 victory to their resume. They return to action on Friday for the Vermont Thanksgiving Tournament against the James Madison Dukes.