Jan. 3, 2009
CINCINNATI, Ohio - In its third game of a busy week, Villanova (8-6, 0-1 Big East) opened BIG EAST Conference play at Cincinnati (11-3, 1-0 Big East) on Saturday afternoon and was defeated, 61-54, at Fifth Third Arena. Senior forward Laura Kurz (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.) scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Wildcats, who have not won their conference opener in the past four seasons.
Villanova recovered from dismal three-point shooting in the first half to heat up from the field in the second 20 minutes of play. The Wildcats methodically chipped away at a double-digit Bearcat lead during the second half but never got any closer in the period than the final seven-point margin. Cincinnati secured the outcome by making 4-of-4 free throws in the final 45 seconds.
Kurz finished 8-of-20 from the field, tied a season-high with three made three-pointers and added 3-of-3 free throws in 30 minutes. She notched her 10th straight game in double figures and reached at least 20 points for the fourth time this season and 14th time in her Villanova career. Senior guard Siobhan O'Connor (West Chester, Pa.) scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half to join Kurz in double figures.
Twice during the second half the Wildcats cut their deficit to nine points with time left to make a sustained run but each time were turned back by the Bearcats. Kurz hit a jumper with 12:02 to left that pulled Villanova to within 46-37 and sliced the Cincinnati lead to single digits for the first time in the half. The Bearcats answered with a three-pointer from Kahla Roudebush just moments later, though, restoring the advantage at 49-37.
With 8:25 to play, O'Connor made a shot in the lane that left the score standing at 50-41. Roudebush made two free throws on the next Cincinnati possession and the Wildcats wound up going nearly four minutes before scoring their next points. During that span the team missed three straight chances to get back within single digits. By the time Villanova did get within that range, the game was essentially out of reach when O'Connor's triple with 1:02 showing made the score 57-49.
Roudebush scored 19 points to lead the Bearcats and Jill Stephens added 15 points and a game-high eight rebounds. After shooting 52 percent (14-of-27) in the first half, Cincinnati cooled to 32 percent (6-of-19) in the final 20 minutes. However, the Bearcats made 19-of-22 (86.4%) free throws in the game and committed just six turnovers.
Only sophomore center Heather Scanlon (Drexel Hill, Pa.) joined Kurz and O'Connor with more than one basket on the day for the Wildcats. She finished with six points and Kurz led the squad with seven rebounds. Sophomore center Shannon Elliott (Wilmington, Pa.) had three points and a season-high three blocked shots.
Neither team shot well coming out of the gates in the first half and the game was tied 4-4 after six minutes of play, with each team making just one field goal and two free throws in that stretch. Cincinnati led for good after taking their first lead of the game at 6-4 with 13:51 to play in the opening period.
Villanova has some time off now after the busy stretch during the holidays and will next play at Providence next Saturday at 2 p.m. The team's home conference opener is not until Wednesday, January 14 against Rutgers.
NOTES: The Wildcats made 10-of-10 free throws in the game to improve their season percentage to 76.7 percent ... In addition to the three free throws by Kurz, junior guard Tia Grant (Lido Beach, N.Y.) was 3-of-3 at the line, while O'Connor and Scanlon each made two foul shots ... Senior forward Lisa Karcic (New Hyde Park, N.Y.) had three points and four rebounds to go along with game-highs of four assists and two steals ... The home team has won all four games in the Villanova-Cincinnati series since the Bearcats joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005-06 ... Today's score marked the closest outcome in the four contests and was the first game decided by single digits in the series ... The Wildcats are 12-15 (.444) in conference openers under head coach Harry Perretta ... The last conference-opening win for Villanova came in a 45-34 win over Providence on January 2, 2005.