Women’s Basketball Falls In Semis At Big East Tourney

Senior forward Sarah Mortensen celebrates during the win over DePaul.

This past weekend, the Villanova women’s basketball team traveled to Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut to compete in the Big East Tournament. The Wildcats faced off against  the reigning Big East Tournament champions and 25th nationally ranked Blue Demons of DePaul on Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinals. Villanova defeated DePaul 78-72 in a hard fought overtime battle, the program’s first Big East tournament quarterfinal victory since 2015. 

In the semifinals, however, the Wildcats ran into perennial national power Connecticut and lost, 84-39, and must wait to learn whether they will earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. 

The Blue Demons came out strong, taking an 11-2 lead just three minutes into the game, but a quick timeout from Villanova head coach Denise Dillon helped the Wildcats settle down. Despite a better offensive performance, Villanova’s defensive struggles continued through the remainder of the quarter, as they trailed 22-12 entering the second. 

The Wildcats turned it around in the second quarter, using a 15-4 run in the first six minutes to take the lead. Maddy Siegrist led the Wildcats on this run, scoring ten of the 15 points, assisted by Brianna Herlihy and Sarah Mortensen, who added 10 and five points in the quarter, respectively. DePaul fought back but was met by the Wildcat defense, which allowed Villanova to hold the one-point lead entering halftime.  

Villanova dominated the third quarter holding DePaul to just nine points. Herlihy and Siegrist continued to lead the Wildcats through this quarter, combining for 13 of the team’s 18 points. The ‘Cats took a 10-point lead heading into the final quarter. 

DePaul bounced back in the fourth, this time holding Villanova to just nine points and Siegrist to none. A dominant performance from Deja Church sparked the Blue Demon’s offense, and DePaul was able to tie the game on two free-throws from Church with 20 seconds left. Villanova was unable to convert on an offensive possession, giving DePaul the ball with five seconds left. Church missed a contested layup as time expired to send the game into overtime. 

The Wildcats regained momentum in overtime with strong defense and a key offensive possession in which Siegrist drew a foul on DePaul’s strongest defender Jorie Allan, giving her five fouls and causing her to exit the game. With Allen out, the Blue Demons struggled to defend Siegrist, who led the ‘Cats to victory with 10 points in the overtime period. Villanova was able to close out the game with clutch free throws and defensive stops. 

Siegrist led all scorers with 30 points and added 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals. This was Siegrist’s fifth 30-point game and twelfth double-double of the season. Siegrist was supported by Herlihy and Mortensen, who scored 19 and 13 points, respectively. Herlihy also added four rebounds and four assists while Mortensen chipped in three rebounds, one assist and one steal. 

With this win, the Wildcats advanced to the tournament semifinals to face the No. 1 nationally ranked UConn Huskies. In a challenging game, the Wildcats fell to the Huskies 84-39 on Sunday afternoon. 

UConn came out strong, taking an early 10-3 lead midway through the first quarter. The intense ball pressure and transition offense from the Huskies was too much for the ‘Cats to handle. Villanova was able to gain some momentum on offense, behind seven early points from Mortensen, but could not make enough stops on the defensive end to cut into the lead. UConn led 25-10 after one quarter.

The offensive struggles continued for Villanova in the second, with the team scoring just three points in the quarter. A dominant team effort from the Huskies allowed them to take a 32 point lead into halftime.

Villanova improved offensively in the third quarter, but could not control the Huskies’ offense, falling behind by 38 heading into the final quarter. 

Villanova was led by Mortensen, who finished with 15 points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal. Herlihy chipped in nine points, two rebounds and two assists. Siegrist, the Wildcat’s leading scorer and the Big East leading scorer on the season, scored just three points in the contest, all coming in the first quarter. 

Villanova is currently projected in the “Next Four Out” category, making them a bubble team. Its win against top-25 ranked DePaul on Saturday helps its chances and improves its resume for the selection committee to consider. The Wildcats will have to wait until Selection Sunday, Mar. 14, to hear what the remainder of their season will look like. The Wildcats would enter the tournament with an overall record of 15-6 and 9-5 in conference.