In a matchup with national powerhouse Notre Dame, Villanova fought valiantly, but lost steam in the second half, suffering a 98-72 defeat in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32.
While the final score may not reflect a close contest, Villanova had Notre Dame on upset alert in the first half. The Wildcats offense shot a blistering 66% from deep, knocking down 10 three-pointers before heading to the locker room. Kelly Jekot led the early charge for the ‘Cats, scoring 7 of the team’s first 12 points. The junior duo of Adrianna Hahn and Jannah Tucker also played pivotal roles on offense, carrying over their hot shooting against South Dakota State into this contest. While the Wildcats’ production came from behind the arc, Notre Dame worked their offense in the post, which revolved around forward Jessica Shepard. The exciting back-and-forth first half closed with the teams deadlocked at 45 apiece.
In the second half, Villanova’s three-point shooting went cold and the Irish took advantage. Notre Dame’s trio of Arika Ogunbowale, Jackie Young and Shepard powered the team into a lead they would retain for the remainder of the game.
Although the loss ends the season for the Wildcats, they exceeded expectations. The ‘Cats started the season 10-0, earning them a spot in the AP top 25 for the first time since 2004. Additionally, with their first round victory of South Dakota St., the team notched their first win in the NCAA tournament since that same 2004 season.