Villanova Downs Holy Cross 63 – 53

Bella Runyan Posts a Double-Double and Sets a Career-High in Rebounds

VILLANOVA, PA. 11/21/2023 –

The teams played each other for the first time since 1990. The Holy Cross Crusaders won that game. This time the Villanova Wildcats got off to an early lead, then turned it over to their defense and rebounding to earn a 63 – 53 victory at the Finneran Pavilion. Wildcats senior guard Bella Runyan had a lucky thirteen scoring 13 points and took down 13 rebounds, a collegiate-best.

The Start Gave Villanova a Lead

The Wildcats started quickly and made 10 of 15 shots, and 3 of 5 three-pointers, to take a 26 – 14 lead after one quarter. The defense held the Crusaders to 32% shooting. Villanova held Holy Cross without a point from the 2:30 mark of the first quarter until there was 5:36 on the clock in the second quarter. Meanwhile the 14 straight Nova points stretched the advantage to 31 – 14, their largest lead of the game. Four different Villanova players scored in the run. Guard Maddie Burke had 5 points and forward Christina Dalce posted 4 points. The run ended with a three-pointer by Crusaders guard Kaitlyn Flanagan.

“It gave us enough of a cushion to not blow a big game,” said Villanova Coach Denise Dillon. “Bella did a great job, not just her numbers, but recognizing in the locker room of staying on point as a leader and talking our team through what needed to happen. And setting the tone with her actions. But also recognizing what we need to do defensively to give ourselves a chance to get back.”

Turning the Game Over to the Defense and Rebounding

Villanova did not keep up the shooting percentage. Over the next three quarters the Wildcats shot 29% (13 of 45) and drained 7 of 22 three-point shots. But the Crusaders could not overcome the lead as they made just 32.5% (14 of 43) from the floor. While Holy Cross did win the second quarter, Villanova reset the tone defensively.

“I think the first quarter was what really got us that cushion that helped not let the game get away from us,” Runyan said. “That was all defense. So we always have to rely on that when things aren’t going our way on the other end.”

Key Sequence That Sealed the Deal

Holy Cross cut the gap to 42 – 37 when Lindsay Berger converted a layup with 4:17 left in the stanza. Villanova reestablished control behind back-to-back three’s by freshman guard Maddie Webber and Runyan. Another set of consecutive three-pointers by Wildcats guard Abby Jegede, her first collegiate points, and Runyan brought the advantage to 56 – 44 in the fourth quarter.

What the Numbers Say

Nova had three players score in double figures. In addition to Runyan, Webber also posted 13. Lucy Olsen, coming off a 40-point performance, led the team with 14 points. Runyan tied her career-high in sinking 3 from beyond the arc, and assisted a game-high 4 times. All nine Villanova players who played scored at least one point. Balance and strength in numbers will aid the Wildcats as the season progresses.

“When you have three scorers in double-figures, a majority of the time, because we are so focused on defense, we come out on the winning end,” Dillon said. “What we like to see is the consistency with knowing who that two-three spot might be. It keeps it interesting. You have players who have the ability, but it also offers that reliability and confidence when you have the consistency from a few of them.”

For Holy Cross Berger pulled down a team-high 8 rebounds to go along with 8 points. Bronagh Power-Cassidy scored a game-high tying 14 points.

Villanova (3 – 1) goes to Wake Forest for a game on Sunday.


Written By: Glenn Papazian


Lucy Olsen who Scored 14 Points

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