A three-point play in the final seconds handed the Villanova Wildcats their first loss of the season, on Saturday afternoon, in the UCF Thanksgiving Classic against the undefeated Virginia Tech Hokies.
This time around, Villanova lost another one in the second half of play. The Wildcats had been leading for the majority of the game but ultimately could not hold off an explosive UCF second half, which catapulted it to victory as ‘Nova fell 71-56.
Coming into the game the Wildcats knew they would have to defend the dynamic duo of Korneila Wright and Sydnee McDonald from UCF. They combine for 30 points per game and are guaranteed to get touches on every possession, and ‘Nova was preparing for a tough match-up on all aspects of the court.
The first four baskets of the game for the ‘Cats were from behind the arc, Jannah Tucker scoring two, and Kelly Jekot and Adrianna Hahn both adding one. The Wildcats’ defense was unable to make effective stops in the paint, and the Knights were scoring almost at will from down low. Two Villanova turnovers in the final minute of action lead to UCF baskets and the Knights had a one point lead after the first quarter.
‘Nova was able to contain Wright and McDonald for the first half but UCF kept throwing players into the paint to score. The Wildcats are not exactly a big team and UCF was able to take advantage of their height, forcing the Wildcats to take contested shots from the outside. Jekot sunk a three-pointer to take a 2 point lead with 2 minutes left but the Knights embarked on a quick 7-0 run to end the half that ended with the Wildcats down 32-27 at the half.
Jekot had an unusually quiet half, only scoring three-points, and the ‘Cats as a team shot 7-17 from beyond the arc in the first half. You could tell Perretta wasn’t happy with his team’s production down low and reverted back to relying on the three-pointers.
An explosive second half proved to be their down-fall yesterday, and UCF came out of the gates running in the third quarter. The Knights put together a 6-0 run in the opening minute of the quarter and the Wildcat deficit suddenly hit eleven points. The Wildcat offense couldn’t land a punch for almost five minutes as the Knights went on a 9-0 run to push their lead to 17 points, and it was clear this game was all but over. The ‘Cats were struggling to get points down low and could not hit anything from behind the arc and that effectively shut down their entire offense. A layup from Jekot with 3 minutes left in the game cut the lead to 9 but UCF responded with a basket of their own and they nursed a double-digit lead for the rest of the game.
Jekot had a much better second-half and finished with 17 points but had a bad day shooting, only going 6-15 from the field. Mary Gedaka finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds, and Adrianna Hahn added 13 points.
Villanova committed an uncharacteristic 21 turnovers and UCF was able to capitalize with 23 points off turnovers. ‘Nova was also out-rebounded 43-32 and only scored 12 points in the paint compared to UCF’s 42.
Wright scored 20 points for the UCF Knights and added 9 rebounds and 6 assists, and Kayla Thigpen added 17 points and 6 rebounds. UCF only attempted 6 three-pointers compared to Villanova’s 36 attempts.
The Lady ‘Cats will look to rebound after two straight losses on Wednesday at 7 PM in the Pavilion against the 1-6 Princeton Tigers.