Villanova Wins Their 99th Big Five Game
VILLANOVA, PA. 12/21/2012 – The Villanova Wildcats have put themselves in position to win another Big Five title. The 55 – 44 win over the Temple Owls allows Villanova to sit atop the Big Five with a 3 – 0 city record. The Wildcats have won 8 consecutive Big Five contests, and the final city series game will be January 16 at Penn, who is 1 – 0 in the Big Five. Another city title is important on the Main Line, and it is an accomplishment to the team.
“For me it’s huge because I grew up in it,” said Villanova Coach Harry Perretta about what the title would mean. “These kids
take this real seriously. Last year they write down their top moments. One of the top numbers was winning the Big Five. To these guys it’s a really big deal.”
“It means a lot since Big Five games are so competitive,” said senior forward and Marlton, NJ native Laura Sweeney. “Being as Philly school, it’s good for us. Every Big Five game means more. Hopefully, we can win one more and complete it.”
Villanova started out quickly making 3 from beyond the arc to take a 9 – 0 lead. Seniors Laura Sweeney, Jesse Carey, and Rachel Roberts made back to back to back threes. The initial lead grew to 13 – 0 before Temple got their first basket by freshman guard Erica Convile at the 13:38 mark. The Wildcats kept the pressure on. A Roberts three-pointer put Villanova in front by a 30 – 15 score, the largest lead of the game. A good start is important as Nova can keep the pressure on the opponent to stay in front.
“When we come out and hit three straight threes, if we’re getting those shots early in the game, it’s a good testament to get everyone’s confidence up, and get back on defense and get stops,” said Roberts. “When you make a shot you feel ten thousand times better about yourself and you want to get back on defense. You play a lot harder. It was great coming out and hitting those threes, and holding them on defense was more important than hitting those shots.”
Did we mention this is a Big Five game? Temple did not go away. Few Big Five games are blowouts. The Owls started the second half with an 11 – 5 run getting to within four points at 37 – 33 on a jump shot by senior center Victoria Macaulay who scored a team-high 17 points, 11 in the second half. At one stretch Macaulay scored 11 straight points for the Cherry and White. Although the Owls got back into the game, which is important to a young team, it indicates something problematic for Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza that the team fell that far behind.
“It is a sign of growth that we didn’t crumble and got ourselves back into the basketball game,” said Cardoza. “The thing that is discouraging is that they got to the 13 point lead. We didn’t do the things we talked about doing, whether it was before the game or at halftime. They got wide open threes that we were not going to give them, that we were going to defend differently. We lost our focus out there. We have to be a smarter, more disciplined basketball team.”
With the game still in doubt as Villanova led by 44 – 36, the Wildcats took control of the game behind a three by junior guard Devon Kane with 5:50 to play. It turned out to be the determining shot in the game.
“We were not going to help off a shooter,” said Cardoza. “The last few minutes of the game that’s all we did. We gave them wide open threes, and they are always going to knock them down.”
Roberts scored a team-high 13 points for Villanova. Senior forward Megan Pearson added 10 points. Villanova made 7 of 20 three-point shots. For Temple junior forward Natasha Thames pulled down a game-best 9 rebounds, 4 on the offensive end.
The Wildcats are 9 -1 on the season, and it is their best start since the 2003-04 season. The best start was 10 – 1 that season, and Nova finished 23 – 7. Villanova goes for the outright championship and Big Five win number 100 next. The local players and coaches know what this means. The players who are not from the area, like Roberts who is from Connecticut, have learned the significance of the city title, and want it.
“The Big Five is such good basketball,” said Roberts. “To be able to say that we are back to back Big Five champions is superb. I am at a loss for words to describe how important this is to us.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian