Villanova Denied the Title as Connecticut Wins 70 – 40
UNCASVILLE, CT. 3/7/2022 –
The last time Villanova Wildcats played the Connecticut Huskies in the Big East Tournament final, Villanova won. The last time the Wildcats played the Huskies, Villanova won. This was not about history, this game was about today. UConn won. They hoisted the trophy twenty times in the Big East. Seven times in the American, but, again, this is about today. And today scoring droughts and inability to defend the inside game told the story.
“Congratulations to Connecticut who played a tremendous game from start to finish,” said Villanova Coach Denise Dillon. “They just came out ready to go and showed us what Connecticut basketball is.
But as I just said to our team how proud I am of them and their effort and getting us here in the championship game and giving us a taste of what it’s about. And wanting to get back here for sure.”
Cold Shooting Costs the Cats
To beat UConn there is a need to score. Nova put up 72 in the February game. The Wildcats made only 16 of their 50 shots. Experiencing damaging scoring droughts proved to be costly. In the first quarter Nova did not score their first basket until nearly four minutes passed by.
The Wildcats started the second quarter without a point for 4:20. After a Brianna Herlihy basket, the Cats went dry again for nearly three minutes.
Opening the third quarter a Nova shot did not fall for a span of nearly five and half minutes, and closed the quarter point less for over five minutes. The Cats put up 8 points in both the second and third quarter.
“It was from the start,” Dillon said. “And just missing early and just affected us from the jump. We realized the physicality was going to be a big factor. You’ve got to make shots and get stops. And I thought we battled aggressively on the defensive end, but we weren’t connecting on the offensive end.”
UConn Physicality on Defense
Siegrist, the conference player of the year who averages over 26 points per game, got 16 points on 7 of 27 shooting and just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. She was the focus of the defense.
“They’re very physical,” said Siegrist. “It’s nothing like we haven’t seen before, just they have five players that are physical, not just one or two.”
The Huskies Had the Answer Inside
On offense the Huskies had the answer by going inside. UConn took 40 shots inside the three-point line, 26 went through the net. Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa did most of the damage.
“They have obviously really a lot of size inside,” said Herlihy. “So we were trying to front and they would lob. We would try to stay behind and they would get the ball in the post. It was definitely a tough battle inside.”
Herlihy added 8 points and handed out a team-high 3 assists and 5 rebounds.
Selection Sunday Story
Connecticut finishes the regular season 25 – 5. They know their name will be called on Selection Sunday. Villanova is 23 – 8, and their fate rests in the hands of the Selection Committee. The Wildcats have a good resume and a marquee player. Sunday will tell the story.
“I think just looking at our resumé you look at it again from January on,” Dillon said. “We played six games without the Player of the Year (Siegrist) and we go with her 18-of-22. I think we did exactly what we needed to from that point on when we got her back and put us in the championship game with the Player of the Year in the Big East and one of the best in the nation.”
Christyn Williams was named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament. Aaliyah Edwards, Evina Westbrook, Maddy Siegrsit, Lauren Park-Lane (Seton Hall) and Karissa McLaughlin (Marquette) we named to the All-Tournament Team.
Written By: Glenn Papazian