PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/8/2012 – In a game where each player knew each other well, played against each other in the summer, and have been matching skills since high school, experience mattered. The Villanova Wildcats players had the experience factor, and felt as though they’ve been in tough situations before. It helped them to overcome Saint Joseph’s 55 – 51 in a Big Five women’s game at the Hagan Arena.
The game was close throughout. The Wildcats had to nearly the entire game without leading scorer Senior forward Laura Sweeney who was on the bench after having a swollen eye. It would be up to the other experienced players to carry Villanova through. They did as Seniors Rachel Roberts scored a team leading 16 points and 9 rebounds. Senior forward Megan Pearson added 11 points and Junior guard Devon Kane contributed 10 points. Roberts scored 9 points in the second half. In the game she made 4 of 5 field goal attempts and was 6 of 8 from the free throw line. The trio of Roberts, Pearson, and Kane scored the last 15 Wildcat points.
“Playing in the Big Five, they pretty much know our offense, having the veteran players we were able to ran cuts that he (Coach Harry Perretta) is not calling, and you would not see if you are overwhelmed by the environment,” said Roberts. “Being older and more mature you are able to calm down. We got some good plays going. We were running them through by ourselves.”
“We went to our veteran players and tried to grind the game out,” said Perretta.
“I think Villanova stepped up big time,” said Saint Joseph’s Coach Cindy Griffin. “Without their leading scorer, their other kids stepped up. I think they outworked us and out toughed us today. That sums it up. We had some fight at the end but it was too much too late.”
The player who had not been through the Big Five wars was Senior forward Chatilla van Grinsven who scored a career-high 24 points, and had her fourth double-double of the season as she added 11 rebounds. No other Saint Joseph’s player scored in double figures. The front line for the Hawks scored 32 of the 51 points. Saint Joseph’s made only 2 of 12 from beyond the arc.
“In a series like this familiarity helps,” said Griffin. “With that said we had a player with a double-double that hasn’t had that (van Grinsven).”
“We knew we could take advantage inside when we had the opportunity. She stepped us for us big time, but we are not going to be a very good basketball team with just one kid stepping up.”
Still the Hawks stayed within striking distance. The game was tied at 38 with 8:58 to play. Saint Joseph’s would not score again for nearly six minutes. A 10 – 0 run gave Villanova a 48 – 38 lead. Saint Joseph’s would miss 7 shots in that span where Roberts, Pearson, and Kane would get 8 of the 10 points. The Hawks closed to within 3, but the Wildcats held their composure and the lead.
“This game came down to experience at the end, making our free throws,” said Pearson. “We knew they would make a run at us, but we stayed calm and got the win.”
Villanova improves to 7 – 1 on the season, and is 2 – 0 in the Big Five. The Wildcats prepare for a big test on Wednesday night as Princeton visits the Main Line. Saint Joseph’s is 5 – 3 on the season and gets ready for a trip to Gainesville, FL to play in the Gator Holiday Classic.
In this Big Five rivalry the home team had won the last seven games. Villanova broke through as they did in 2004. The home team had the upper hand, but the visiting Wildcats had the experience and wherewithal to end that streak. And the veterans earned the admiration of Coach Harry Perretta during the game.
Written By: Glenn Papazian