VILLANOVA, Pa. 2/27/12 – The Villanova Wildcats women’s basketball team has a history of making three-point shots against the Orange of Syracuse. Over the past five seasons Villanova has made at least ten from beyond the arc. In this game the Wildcats converted 14 of 26 (53.8%), 10 in the first half. Syracuse made adjustments to take the lead, but a 19 – 7 Villanova run over the final seven and a half minutes gave the Cats a 68 – 60 win on Senior Night at the Pavilion. The Wildcats were led by one of their Seniors as forward Lindsay Kimmel tied her season-high for made threes with five as she scored a team-high 16 points. The win stops a five game losing streak, and gives Villanova a 16 win season, 6 in the Big East.
“It was huge for us to build some positive momentum going into the tournament,” said Kimmel. “We were flat the last four games. Everybody is on the same page, the same energy level. It’s looking good.”
The Wildcats came out draining threes connecting on 10 of 15 going into halftime with a 36 – 27 lead. As a team Villanova 13 of 27 (48.1%) in field goal shooting. They had 11 assists on their 13 made baskets. Villanova kept the ball moving, and the Syracuse zone scrambling.
“It’s huge when you’re trading two’s for three’s, and we’re a team that lives and dies by the three,” said Kimmel. “It was huge to find who was open inside their zone and whoever was on.”
The threes did not drop as often in the second half. Syracuse went to a in ball pressure defense. On the offensive side forward Iasia Hemingway was getting the ball to the basket. She had a game-high 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Syracuse led 53 – 47 with 7:30 on the clock. Villanova did not wilt. They began a comeback. The charge started with defense. Junior forward Megan Pearson defended Hemingway. She did not stop the Syracuse forward, but slowed her down. The offense began to reawaken. Despite playing with four fouls Junior forward Laura Sweeney was getting inside and scoring. Her two free throws with 4:59 to play gave Villanova the lead for the remainder of the game at 56 – 55. A three by Redshirt Freshman forward Lauren Burford gave Villanova a 61 – 57 edge and command of the game. Sweeney scored 15 points in the game and grabbed 7 rebounds. Pearson was credited with 6 rebounds.
“I was very happy that we didn’t fall apart,” said Villanova Coach Harry Perretta. “With seven minutes to go, I thought we were done. We were confused. All of a sudden Burford hit a three, Sweeney made a basket, and our confidence was up. Sometimes, when you’re struggling you lose your confidence, and you need somebody to spark you. Late in the game we had Burford, Sweeney, and I thought Megan Pearson was the unsung hero of the game.”
It was Senior Night for Kimmel. In her last Pavilion appearance Kimmel came out connecting on the open shots she was able to get making for a pleasant Senior Night memory. She will finish her career with 116 made three-pointers, and scored 435 points in her two-year career at Villanova. Kimmel was a transfer from Temple who gave Villanova needed scoring ability. She will remember more than basketball games during her time on the Main Line.
“All the Harryisms,” Kimmel reflected immediately. “This team is a family. That is one thing I will carry with me my entire life. The tradition Villanova carries. The pride that I have in this university will always be with me.”
Also honored in the pregame ceremony and starting was fifth year Senior Sarah Jones who played in two games this season due to a knee injury.
“I feel bad for Jones,” Perretta said. “She has been a great kid in our program. She is an intelligent kid who teaches younger kids in our program.”
The Wildcats end the season with a 16 – 13 record, 6 – 10 in the Big East. The team has the Big Five title, and may have post-season games to play. The immediate concern is the Big East Tournament. The Wildcats are prepared and ready, but they have injuries to overcome. Kimmel has been battling injuries. In the game Junior guard Rachel Roberts went down late in the game with an apparent knee injury. The extent is not known for each player. Perretta will find out more, then plan for the opening round on Friday, March 2 at the XL Center in Hartford.
The team got one more win, and goes to Hartford on a positive.
Written By: Glenn Papazian