The Wildcats Had Opportunities but the Tigers Held On for the Win
VILLANOVA, PA. 12/11/2023 –
The Villanova Wildcats were experiencing a quick turnaround after a tough Saturday game at Saint Joseph’s. It would be a challenge to face a good Princeton Tigers team. A battle was expected, and Nova got one. The game was close as there were 12 lead changes and 8 ties. Chances for a win or tie were there down the stretch, but Villanova did not convert and the result was a 61 – 58 loss to Princeton at the Finneran Pavilion.
“We need the effort to be there,” said Villanova Coach Denise Dillon. “But we have to learn at a faster clip of when it happens in the moment. We battled.”
The game featured a matchup between two scoring guards. Princeton senior guard Kaitlyn Chen scored a career-high 31 points and had 10 of the last 14 points for the Tigers. Villanova junior guard Lucy Olsen scored 21 for the Wildcats. Olsen had chances at the end, but the ball did not fall.
“The last time we were here, she was a freshman and had seven turnovers,” said Princeton Coach Carla Berube about Chen. “She was hoping this would be a better game for her. In her last game she had 10 assists. She swapped those for points for tonight, and she was feeling it. We want to give her the ball and give her as many opportunities as we can and get her shots.”
Going into the fourth quarter Villanova trailed 49 – 47. In a low scoring quarter won by Princeton 14 – 11, the Wildcats went ahead 54 – 49 with 6:45 on the clock. Chen would tie the game at 54 until Olsen scored on a floating jumper off a steal at the 2:35 mark. It would be the last basket scored by the hosts. Chen got the lead back for Princeton on a jumper the bounced twice off the rim and in. She was also fouled and converted the free throw to put the visitors up by a point as 2:01 showed on the clock.
Neither team would score again until 13.3 seconds were left to play. Villanova had a great chance with 25 seconds left, but forward Christina Dalce had her layup attempt go in, around, and out. Over that span Nova missed five shots. Tigers forward Ellie Mitchell made one of two free throws at the 13.3 mark. The rebound off the miss went to the Tigers. Guard Chet Nweke converted one of two a second later for a 59 – 56 lead.
Villanova still had a chance. Olsen made her defender go up and was fouled on as three-point attempt putting her at the line with a chance to tie the game with 2 seconds to go. She would miss the first, then make the next two to get Nova to within 59 – 58.
“If there was an open shot I would have taken it,” Olsen said. “But I saw her coming at me. I was still trying to make it.”
A foul put Tigers guard Skye Belker on the line with 1.4 seconds remaining. She made both. Olsen had a desperation three-pointer at the horn that was well short.
“Our defense has been a work in progress this season,” Berube said. “We finally got the stops we needed down the stretch, and that’s what we want to hang our hats on and we did it.”
What the Numbers Say
in addition to her point total Olsen handed out a career-high 4 assists. She is drawing defenders which is giving the Olsen a chance to facilitate which will help the offense of Villanova.
“The ball is in Lucy’s hands a great bit and we talked about it and recognition of how we can open it up for others,” Dillon said. “Lucy is aware of of involving others, getting them comfortable out there. It will come down to that trust factor.”
Dalce scored 16 points and took down 12 rebounds. This is her fifth consecutive double-double. Freshman Maddie Webber scored 9 points.
Mitchell grabbed a game-high 19 rebounds. Princeton had a 44 – 30 edge in rebounds, 17 – 9 off the offensive glass and a 32 – 14 advantage in second chance points.
Belker and sophomore guard Madison St. Rose scored 12 points each.
Up Next for Villanova
Big East play awaits Villanova as the team travels to St. John’s on Saturday. This completes the Ivy League part of the schedule as the Wildcats post a 1 – 2 record. Villanova lost to Columbia and Princeton, yet did beat Penn.
Written By: Glenn Papazian