Jan. 6, 2013
CINCINNATI, Ohio - Freshman point guard Caroline Coyer (Oak Hill, Va.) hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 21 seconds left and then sank two free throws with six seconds remaining to lift Villanova (11-2, 1-0 BIG EAST) to a 54-51 victory over Cincinnati (8-6, 0-1 BIG EAST) in the conference opener for both teams at Fifth Third Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Coyer gave the Wildcats their only lead of the second half with the game-winning three-pointer, which was part of a 14-4 run for Villanova in the last five minutes. There were eight lead changes and four ties in the game but the Bearcats led by as many as nine points in the second half before the Wildcats rallied for the late victory.
Senior forward Laura Sweeney (Marlton, N.J.) led Villanova with 15 points and six rebounds while shooting 7-of-13 from the floor. Sophomore forward Lauren Burford (Fairfax, Va.) added 14 points thanks to 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range, while Coyer finished with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
The late comeback was fueled in part by two critical baskets from senior forward Megan Pearson (West Chester, Pa.), who hit a three-pointer with 3:37 left and later tied the game at 49-49 on a jumper with 1:17 to play. Pearson, Sweeney and Coyer scored 12 of the 14 points in the Wildcats game-ending run.
Cincinnati led 47-40 with 5:18 left after a three-pointer by Chelsea Jamison but the Bearcats missed their next five shots from the field while Villanova launched its comeback. Sweeney made a layup with 4:58 remaining and Pearson's three-pointer two possessions later cut the deficit to 47-45.
Kayla Cook made two free throws for Cincinnati with 3:20 left to extend the lead to 49-45 but senior guard Rachel Roberts (Marlborough, Conn.) made a layup with 2:06 to play and Pearson followed with the game-tying basket moments later.
With the game tied at 49-49 a missed basket by the Bearcats with 48 seconds to play was rebounded by Coyer, who then hit the go-ahead three-pointer late in the shot clock at the other end. Dayeesha Hollins cut the newly gained Wildcats lead to one point, 52-51, with nine seconds left but Coyer hit both ends of a 1-and-1 at the line to secure the outcome.
Burford scored all 14 of her points in the first half, when she shot 5-of-6 from the field and 4-of-5 from long distance. The teams were never separated by more than four points in the opening 20 minutes, when the lead changed hands seven times. Cincinnati led 27-25 at the intermission.
Midway through the first period Burford scored five unanswered points in a span of 40 seconds, including a three-pointer with 11:42 left before halftime that gave Villanova an early 12-8 lead. The lead was still at four points, 18-14 with 8:16 left, after a Burford three-pointer but the Bearcats went on a 10-2 run that spanned 5:45 and resulted in a 24-20 lead after Cook made a three-pointer with 2:10 remaining before the intermission.
In the second half a three-point play by Alexis Durley gave Cincinnati its largest lead of the game at nine points, 40-31 with 11:25 to play. Layups by Sweeney on the next two Wildcats possessions and a free throw with 8:27 remaining trimmed that margin to 40-36 and prevented the Bearcats from putting the game out of reach.
Villanova received a boost from its reserve unit, including the 10 points from Coyer and five points from Pearson. For the game the Wildcats bench outscored the Cincinnati reserves by a 21-10 margin, including a 12-0 advantage in the decisive second half.
Hollins led the Bearcats with a game-high 16 points.
Villanova returns home for the first time in nearly three weeks when it hosts DePaul on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
NOTES: Including today's victory the Wildcats are 14-17 all-time in BIG EAST openers ... Villanova is 6-2 all-time against Cincinnati and won for the second straight time at Fifth Third Arena ... Sweeney scored in double figures for the 10th time in 13 games this season, while Coyer reached double figures for the sixth time ... Sweeney moved into 13th place on the Villanova career scoring list with 1,276 points ... She is four points behind Nikki Benedix (1989-93) ... The Wildcats committed just nine turnovers in the game, marking the fifth time this season and third time in the last four outings with a single-digit number of miscues ... Villanova ranked second in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (11.2) in the latest release of national statistical rankings.