At first it seemed like the Villanova Wildcats women’s basketball team was going to be able to coast its way to the final buzzer.
Xavier trailed for a majority of the game, falling behind the ‘Cats within opening minutes. Once the second quarter started, Villanova was shooting at an unstoppable rate that drove its lead well into the twenties.
However, the Wildcats saw their comfortable lead quickly evaporate in the fourth quarter. After Villanova’s Emily Esposito drained a three to begin the final frame of play and extend to the Wildcat lead to 25, Xavier went on a 22-2 run over the next six minutes, making it a one-basket game.
The game was close, until a three-pointer and a couple of foul shots by Kelly Jekot, as well as a series of free throws by Adrianna Hahn, helped ‘Nova pull away at the end. The Wildcats managed to hang on for a 75-71 win, securing their first Big East victory of the game.
Jekot led the way with a game-high 24 points and six rebounds. Hahn racked up 19 points and three steals. Both players had five made three-pointers apiece. Esposito, a redshirt freshman, added a solid 13-point outing off of the bench.
The suddenly dramatic ending was a sharp contrast from the first three quarters of the game. Once ‘Nova snatched the lead to start, it went on to a build a 32-22 advantage going into halftime.
Once the second half began, the Wildcats increased the intensity on the floor. They got off to a hot start, draining four-straight three-pointers—with the last two coming from Jannah Tucker—to make it a 20-point game. From there, they sustained the hot hand on offense, Villanova shot a blistering 11-for-15 (73.3 percent) overall and 7-of-9 (77.7 percent) from long range in the third quarter alone. It seemed like it would easily pull away and bury Xavier.
As the fourth quarter began, the Musketeers refused to go away quietly. Xavier enjoyed that big 22-2 run, and its own hot-shooting fourth quarter. The Musketeers had a high-scoring 32-point surge over the final 10 minutes of play. In the fourth quarter, they shot 12-of-18 on the floor (66.7 percent). The Wildcats cooled off, as Xavier continued to pour it on.
Unfortunately for the Musketeers, they would get close to catching the ‘Cats, but when they would make it a two-point game, Villanova would make the key shots to give it some breathing room.
That Jekot three-pointer with less than a minute to go proved to be a key basket in locking up Villanova’s first win in conference play.
For Xavier, Na’teshia Owens paced the Musketeers with 19 points. Princess Stewart added 17 points. Aaliyah Dunham finished with 13 points.
Villanova improves to 9-3 overall and 1-1 in Big East play. The Wildcats will resume action in 2019, as they take a weekend road trip to start the year. They will begin with a Friday night game at Creighton. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. ET.