Last year, the Lady ‘Cats knocked off a ranked Duke team in Jake Nevin, and tonight the Villanova Women’s Basketball team had the opportunity to get a huge non-conference win before Big East play opens up. The Georgia Bulldogs started the season ranked, but back-to-back losses against UCLA and Georgia Tech dropped them from the rankings and they have been only receiving votes for the last few weeks. The Bulldogs are lead by senior Caliya Robinson who is almost averaging a double-double this season (14.8 ppg and 9.3 rebounds per game).
The teams have only met once before in 1986, so to say the teams were not familiar with each other would be an understatement. The first quarter was very much a feeling-out process as the teams took a while to get into rhythm. It took almost 6 minutes of action before the Wildcats were able to grab their second basket, but in the blink of an eye they grabbed 9 straight points to tie the game and then take the lead with free-throws from Kelly Jekot. A layup from Jekot with seconds remaining in the first quarter gave the Wildcats a 14-12 lead heading into the first break.
Georgia had done a great job shutting down the lanes in the paint in the first quarter and the Wildcats were forced to look for points behind the arc, which proved successful. Bridget Herlihy opened the scoring for the second quarter with a three-pointer and redshirt-freshman Emily Esposito scored four straight to push the lead to seven early in the second quarter. The lead reached nine points after a three-pointer from Jekot but the Bulldogs responded with a layup from Stephanie Paul. Esposito continued her perfect first half with a turnover jumper that sent her defender falling to the floor with seconds remaining. A half-court shot from Georgia fell short at the buzzer and the Wildcats took a 31-23 lead into the half.
Esposito already had tied career-high with eight points (which she got last game against Temple) and was shooting a perfect 4-4 from the field. Jekot was leading the scoring for the Wildcats with 10 points and grabbed 4 rebounds as well. Georgia came into the game averaging almost 10 rebounds per game more than the Wildcats, but they held even with 16 apiece. Paul was leading the scoring for Georgia with 11 points while Taja Cole had already grabbed 7 rebounds.
A quick miss from Georgia opened up the second half and an offensive board gave Jannah Tucker an open three-pointer to push the lead to double digits. Georgia cut the lead to eight after two free-throws from Paul but some bad passing and an offensive foul gave the ball back to ‘Nova as they scored six points in about a minute. The Bulldogs caught fire before the end of the quarter, going on a 8-0 run in the final minutes but a three-pointer at the buzzer from Jannah Tucker gave ‘Nova a 9 point lead going into the final quarter of action.
Jekot kept her hot game going in the fourth quarter, nailing a floater to push the lead back to double digits and it would remain that way until the final two minutes of the game when Georgia attempted a late game rally. An 8-0 run including their first three-pointer of the game, a three-point play, and a layup after a Villanova shot clock violation suddenly made it a 6 point game with a little over a minute remaining. Mary Gedaka made a clutch layup with 42 seconds remaining to push the lead back to eight and a block from Jannah Tucker on the other end of the court sealed the game for the ‘Cats. Villanova came away with a 62-56 victory, a huge non-conference win before Big East play starts in two weeks.
Jekot finished the game with 20 points, shooting 7-10 from the field including 3-4 from behind the arc. She also lead the team with 7 rebounds. Adrianna Hahn was the only other Villanova player in double figures with 11 points and she had 4 rebounds and 3 assists to go along. The ‘Cats got help from Tucker and Esposito who both had 8 points and Grace Stant with 6 points. Mary Gedaka came into the game averaging 14.4 ppg but finished the night with only 4 as she drew the Bulldogs’ best defenders almost every possession.
Paul paced the Bulldogs with 19 points and Robinson, the leading scorer for Georgia coming into the game only managed 6 points on 3-10 shooting from the field. Taja Cole played every minute for the Bulldogs but finished with 3 points and 9 rebounds. The Wildcats only lost the rebounding by 5, a stat they definitely would have been thrilled with coming into the game. The teams shot almost identical from the field (23-52 for the Wildcats and 22-52 for the Bulldogs) but ‘Nova had 9 three-pointers compared to just one from Georgia.
The team has two weeks off for finals (anyone know a lot about Latin American politics?) before they take on Butler at home on the 29th.