March 6, 2021 –
The fifth seeded Villanova Wildcats eliminated the number four seed DePaul Blue Demons in the quarterfinal round of the Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament in Uncasville, CT, the first time DePaul did not have a tournament victory. In a back and forth contest that went to overtime Nova survives and moves on 78 – 72. Wildcats forward Maddy Siegrist led the game scoring 30 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. It was the sixth career thirty-point game for Siegrist.
The Wildcats advance to the semifinal round where they play the #1 Connecticut Huskies. For Villanova it was a matter of staying composed.
“We kept our heads even going into the overtime,” said Villanova Coach Denise Dillon. “A calm presence and a lot of that goes to the one on my right (Siegrist) leading the team with her play. She kept the team together and remained poised from start to finish. You get big wins like this when your leader is in charge of the force.”
The Wildcats survived a fourth quarter Blue Demons rally. Villanova appeared to be in control leading by as many as 9 points with just under five and a half minutes to play. DePaul ended regulation with a 12 – 3 run and had a chance to win but a last second layup by Deja Church, who led the Blue Demons with 19 points, hit the front of the rim.
“A few of those possessions, a little bit of feeling the pressure in a big game against a talented, great team,” Dillon said about how the game got close. “We had some miscues and struggled to stop them on drives. We didn’t lose our heads.”
Composure and resilience mattered again. In the overtime period Villanova retook control of the game as Siegrist scored the first 5 points for her team. She scored 8 of the 14 Nova points in the extra five minutes. DePaul tied the game on a three-pointer by Darrione Rogers at the 1:42 mark. Villanova reestablished the lead on a short jumper by Brianna Herlihy, a jumper by Siegrist, and two free throws by Samantha Carangi.
“DePaul is a great team,” Siegrist said. “They were tough the whole game and especially in overtime. They bring such intensity. We knew we were going to get open looks, and I think we did a good job of remaining patient, and getting the looks we wanted.”
The game had a trend where each team would control a segment where stops that mattered more than buckets. DePaul had the advantage in the first quarter scoring the first 9 points of the game, and got out to a 20 – 9 lead. After trailing by 10 after one Villanova won the second quarter and took a 37 – 36 halftime lead as Herlihy hit a three at the buzzer. Nova allowed 9 points and had a 55 – 45 lead after three. In the fourth quarter won the by Demons 19 – 9, the Wildcats had three from beyond the arc by Bella Runyan, Sarah Mortensen, and Raven James.
For Villanova the big three led the team in scoring as they have all year. Herlihy added 19 points for the Cats and Mortensen scored 13 points. And everyone contributed a needed something.
Sonya Morris scored 16 points and had 9 rebounds for the Blue Demons. Rogers pulled down 10 rebounds.
UConn looms next. Villanova goes into that game with a step in the right direction winning over the two-time defending champions.
“DePaul’s been such a force in the Big East,” Siegrist said. “They have so much success with their program. So a win like that means a lot.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian