Villanova Snaps Losing Skid Downing La Salle

The Wildcats Earn a 74 – 60 Win Over The Explorers

PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/21/2023 –

Both teams entered the game on a winless streak. Who was going to end it? The result is Villanova snapped their three-game skid with a 74 – 60 Big Five win over the La Salle Explorers at the Gola Arena. In doing so Nova extended their victory streak over La Salle to 15 games. The Explorers have not won over their last six games.

For Villanova the key to the victory was playing defense. And in the first half the Wildcats limited the Explorers to 7 of 26 shooting (27%) shooting. La Salle scored only 7 first quarter points and did not break double figures for over 15 minutes. The Cats took a 37 – 20 lead into halftime. They rebounded the ball 21 times compared to 14.

Plus Nova was moving the ball, sharing, and playing well on the opposite end of the floor. That translated into a good team effort.

“We stayed in our offense, and let the system work for us,” said Villanova guard Bella Runyan. “When we’re sharing the ball, setting good screens, and using the screens, good things always happen. It’s easy buckets.”

The Key Run

Villanova held a 13 – 7 lead after 10 minutes. In the second quarter the Wildcats broke the game open behind a 16 – 2 run keyed by guard Lucy Olsen and forward Christina Dalce who accounted for 11 of those points, The advantage would stretch to 33 – 12 on a three-pointer by Maddie Burke.

The run a result of playing both ends of the floor.

Attribute the First Half Edge to Defense.

“That’s what we try to emphasize, because offensively it’s a lot of ups and downs” said Villanova Coach Denise Dillon. “Trying to find that consistency, and staying focused on the defensive end. If you’re focusing in on the defense and rebounding, you’re not overthinking the offensive end and things start to fall into place.”

La Salle Comes Back

It is a Big Five game, and those are never easy. La Salle challenged themselves to rally in the second half.

“In some of our previous games we did the opposite,” said Explorers guard Molly Masciantonio. “We made a priority that after halftime we’re going to have energy and all that. So I feel that was really good.”

The Explorers won the third and fourth quarters and got to within 11 three different times, 10 near the end of the game. La Salle made half of their 28 shots in the latter twenty.

“We outscored them in the 20 – 18, 20 – 19 in the last two quarters,” said La Salle Coach Mountain MacGillivray. “But we’re out here to win the game, not to win the second half. It feels a little bit better to know we were in the hunt, and we had a chance late in this one.”

But Villanova weathered the storm.

“It’s recognizing, we’re all right,” Dillon said. “Like we need to get a stop here or a big bucket. We’ve got a nothing to lose everything to gain mentality. Trying to get them comfortable playing together and figuring it out along the way.”

A Masciantonio Milestone

With 3:02 remaining in the third quarter Masciantonio made a jump shot to surpass her 1,000th career point. She would rather have the win. but appreciates reaching that plateau.

“It feels really nice,” said Masciantonio. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to get there, but within five years I got there. I just enjoy being on the court playing La Salle women’s basketball. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

What the Numbers Say

Villanova won the battle of the boards 38 – 23 and 44 – 16 on points in the paint. Dalce posted 13 points and 11 rebounds for her 6th double-double of the season and 4th in the last 5 games. The junior forward grabbed 5 offensive boards, just under her nation-leading average of 6.5 coming into the game .Olsen scored a game-high 23 points. She came in the game averaging 23.5 points per game, 5th best in the NCAA. Runyan played a full game scoring 11 points on 5 of 9 shooting. The senior guard had 9 caroms, 7 assists, and one blocked shot.

Masciantonio had a team-high 15 points making 5 of 11 from the floor and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. She handed out 3 assists. Guard Gabby Turco added 14 points making 5 of her 10 shots.

Up Next

Both teams open conference play. La Salle (3 – 8, 0 – 4 Big Five) travels to Virginia to play George Mason on Saturday, December 30.

Villanova is off until that same day when Xavier comes to the Main Line in a league game.

“It’s great going into Christmas break getting a win,” Runyan said. “Time to relax with family, get a good reset going into Big East play having Xavier. Good timing, too”


Written By: Glenn Papazian


Molly Masciantonio Guards Lucy Olsen

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