March 7, 2021 –
The top-ranked University of Connecticut Huskies might be playing their best basketball of the season. It was evident on defense as the Huskies defeat the 5th seeded Villanova Wildcats 84 – 39 in the semifinal round of the Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament. Villanova was held to 24.6% shooting and made 6 shots from beyond the arc.
Defensively, UConn set the tone early as it took nearly six minutes for Villanova to score. The first basket was a offensive rebound and put back layup by Maddy Siegrist who was fouled and made a traditional three-point play. It was the only points for Siegrist, who was coming off a 30-point performance against DePaul. Huskies guard Christyn Williams contained a foul plagued Siegrist. Williams scored a game-high 26 for Connecticut. Villanova could not overcome the start.
“So often this season our defense has been predicated upon our offensive production,” said Villanova Coach Denise Dillon. “It all came full circle back to that today. I thought we got away from it a little bit over the last few weeks, but just overwhelmed from the beginning and certainly start pressing more on both ends of the floor, trying to make something happen. The one-on-one opportunities are not there against UConn.”
Nova trailed 25 – 10 after one quarter. Then would only get 3 points in the second quarter on a three-pointer by Brianna Herlihy with 1:15 left until halftime. UConn took a 45 – 13 lead into the locker room. Villanova made just 2 of 20 three-point attempts.
Overall, Villanova made 15 of 61 field goal attempts. Only 6 of 33 from distance were good. A matter if the Connecticut defense disrupting the Villanova offense.
“They were extremely disruptive of taking us off our mark with any of our offenses. So there was no flow to our offense, whether it was the continuity offense or any set plays.”
UConn was scoring, Nova was not which is a lethal combination for the Cats.
Connecticut was getting the ball inside for close baskets or out on the fast break. In addition to Williams two other Huskies scored in double figures. Paige Bueckers scored 18 points and dished out 8 assists. Olivia Nelson-Ododa contributed 13 points and 7 rebounds. The team connected on 30 of 54 shots, all but 9 form inside the arc. It was a team win.
“It’s a great feeling when you watch a team play late in the season and all the things that you’ve been trying to work on come to life,” said UConn Coach Geno Auriemma. “It makes the kids feel like all the work and all the effort they put into it are worth it. Everyone that played played their role perfectly. We made very few mistakes.”
The offensive bright light for Villanova was Sarah Mortensen with 15 points, three shy of her Nova career -high. The forward made 6 of 15 from the field and took down a team-high 5 rebounds.
“I thought she played within her abilities, Dillon said of Mortensen in the game. “She didn’t try and make something happen, just continued to move to the open spot, set a screen, popped, and knocked down some shots. I felt Sarah battled out there from the beginning and didn’t really get too caught up in the score.”
The 39 points scored was the lowest point total of the season. Siegrist was held to her season low in scoring and was only the second time she did not exceed double figures.
“You learn a lot from every loss and just wanting them to feel this one and recognize what we need to do moving forward with some postseason play,” Dillon said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian