Senior Anna Ross’s layup with 1.7 seconds remaining gave Penn a close-fought victory over Villanova Women’s Basketball. The Wildcats fought back within the last few minutes of the game but suffered their second loss in a row for the first time all season. After starting the season 10-0, they have now lost 4 of the last 8 games.
The game started off with the two teams trading baskets all quarter but neither team was able to build a run early enough to jump out into a strong lead. A combination of good press from Penn and sloppy passing from the Wildcats lead to lots of turnovers. Penn took a 15-12 lead after the first quarter, but an 8-0 lead early in second quarter gave Penn a 9 lead, which would be their largest of the game. Mary Gedaka scored a layup as time expired in the first half to go into the locker room down 35-29.
Gedaka was leading the way for the Wildcats with 10 points, and Alex Louin added 7 points and 5 rebounds. Villanova assisted on 9 of their 12 FGs, but also committed 9 turnovers in the first half, giving Penn 13 points off turnovers. Lauren Whitlatch was leading the way for the Quakers with 11 points, with Michelle Nwokedi and Eleah Parker both adding 7 points.
The combination of bad passing from the Wildcats and inability to stop the scoring from down low was troublesome for the ‘Cats. “The game was over after the first half,” Coach Perretta said after the game. “We were shooting horribly and we couldn’t stop their inside game.”
The Wildcats continued chipping away at the Quakers’ lead, with some three-pointers from Jannah Tucker and inside scoring from Gedaka. “We got back into the game because we finally started making threes,” Coach Perretta said. “We needed to stop their inside scoring but we couldn’t. Taking bad shots didn’t help either.”
Gedaka picked up her 4th foul with 7 minutes left in the game, forcing her to the bench. Penn took advantage, once again leaning on the inside scoring from Nwokedi and Parker to extend their slim lead, which ‘Nova was unable to stop.
Louin was fouled shooting a three-pointer with 3 minutes left and made all her free-throws, cutting the lead to 3 points. After a defensive stop, the Wildcats made their first FG in over 6 minutes as Tucker nailed a deep three to tie the game with 2:40 remaining. Another basket down low and a three-pointer from Whitlatch quickly gave Penn a 5 point lead with just 1:30 left.
Adrianna Hahn had a relatively quiet night with just 8 points, but nailed a three-pointer on the next possession to bring them back into the game. Another basket from Parker down low gave Penn a 4 point lead, but Tucker sunk another huge three-pointer with 27 seconds to bring them within a point.
After a timeout, Penn beat Villanova’s press which gave Whitlatch a wide open jumper that gave Penn a 3 point lead with just 17 seconds remaining. ‘Nova came storming back down the court looking for something, and Alex Louin buried a three pointer with 5 seconds left to tie the game at 77.
Penn had one final play to win the game. “[Villanova] called timeout but we didn’t change what we were doing,” senior Anna Ross said about the final possession. “When I got on the court I knew I was getting the ball and would have a look to win it.” She grabbed the ball and immediately drove to the paint, pulling up from about 10 feet with a hook shot that went in with just 1.7 seconds left. A full court heave from Louin came up short.
Gedaka finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, her first double-double since the first game of the season, and Alex Louin also finished with 19 points, adding 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Jannah Tucker finished with 17 points, with 15 of them coming from behind the arc. Kelly Jekot had a solid game with 10 points and 8 rebounds, while Hahn had a tough night shooting and finished with 8 points.
Starting with last weeks game at Georgetown, the Wildcats are in the middle of a 6 game stretch in just 11 days. “Our guys are definitely tired, these games are taking a toll on our players and I think that was obvious in the first half. We’re not getting enough off the bench and that’s forcing us to play with only 6 people,” Coach said.
For Penn, a chance at a share of the Big 5 title is on the line next week at Temple. “We love these Big 5 games and our players know how much they mean to us,” Penn Head Coach Mike McLaughlin smiled. “It definitely feels good to get a win against Villanova, especially at their place.”
Villanova falls to 14-4 and will return to Big East play with a home game against DePaul on Friday, with tip-off set for 7:00 PM.