The Wildcats Experience Shows in 66 – 56 Win Over the Explorers
December 21, 2021 –
It was expected to be a Big Five tussle, and it lived up to the expectations. Villanova led by five with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter. The ball got into the hands of the Wildcats experienced players, and they pulled away for a 66 – 56 win at the Gola Arena. Maddy Siegrist led the team with a game-high 24 points, and Brianna Herlihy posted her second consecutive double-double scoring 15 points and taking down a season-best 13 rebounds.
“We have a lot of freshman on the team, and just being able to tell them to calm down, and have that presence on the court,” said Herlihy about experience being the guide. “Slow down in running the sets when we are not able to create on our own and hitting the shots as well.”
The game started with each team struggling to score. After one quarter both teams made just 2 of 11 shots and no three-point field goals. The second quarter was a bit better, but not much in terms of scoring. The Wildcats held a 24 – 20 halftime lead.
The trend continued into the third quarter. Nova got a lift from some of their bench. Leading by 27 – 25 with just over seven and a half minutes to play, Nova forward Kaitlyn Orihel converted a traditional three-point play, then after a Siegrist basket, Anahi-Lee Cauley stole the ball and went in for a layup. Later Orihel made two free throws and the lead was at 36 – 28.
“It gave us a spark, we got some steals, some loose balls and came up with easy layups,” said Villanova Coach Denise Dillon. “When we’re just playing and not thinking through all of the action, we’re a much better team. This group is willing to share the ball, and they’re not thinking about the shots that did not go in. There is more fluid offense. That takes time. Brianna and Maddy are used to that and will continue to stick through it. Brooke Mullin is another who is playing through every possession. She is not doing anything she is not capable of, and we’ll get everybody else on board as we continue to move forward.”
Guard Brooke Mullin assisted 6 times tying her collegiate-best.
Kayla Spruill brought La Salle within 36 – 31 as two minutes showed on the clock.
Villanova went to their experience as Herlihy, Siegrist and Lior Garzon scored all but one of the next thirty Villanova points. Momentum was on the Wildcats side and the Explorers could not stop it as the lead increased to as many as 14 points.
The offense got going, but credit the defense for Nova for the win.
“Definitely,” said Siegrist. “At halftime we were up four, and we were only in the game because of our defense. We were struggling to shoot the ball.”
The team kept their focus.
“You want to take good shots and make a good play every time down the floor,” Siegrist said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go in, so you have to recognize what’s a good shot, and just keep going.”
One answer the Explorers found was transfer forward Gabby Crawford who scored a team-high 17 points, two shy of her career-high, making 6 of 8 field goal attempts and two three-pointers. Claire Jacobs added 16 points for La Salle making 3 of 4 from distance. Molly Masciantonio added 10 points and handed out 7 assists.
“I’m pleased that Gabby went in there and finished, and so did Claire,” said La Salle Coach Mountain MacGillivray. “Molly got on the scoreboard today which is nice to see. Hopefully, we can build off this a little bit and go out and get Temple after the break.”
Villanova (6 – 5) finishes the Big Five schedule at 3 – 1 in the city series. La Salle (7 – 5) stands at 1 – 1 in city play, and will face Temple next. The Explorers are still in contention to get a share of the championship.
“It means a lot, and don’t think I don’t know that,” MacGillivray said about being in contention for the crown. “We really wanted to put ourselves in the drivers seat today. If we were 2 – 0, that would be sitting in a good spot. We’d only need to win one of the next two to assure ourselves a share of the Big Five title. We’re hoping to get one outright, too. Right now, the focus is Temple. The winner is in a good spot.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian