March 5, 2011
HARTFORD, Conn. - The penchant for dramatic endings to close games started in the second to last regular season game and continued into the first round of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center on Friday night, where No. 14 seed Villanova (12-18) tallied a 52-50 win in overtime against No. 11 seed Providence (13-16) and advanced to the second round of the conference tournament on Saturday night. The teams stayed within one possession of each other through the final 4:16 of regulation as well as the entire overtime period, with the Wildcats gaining the winning margin on a layup by redshirt freshman guard Devon Kane (Springfield, Pa.) with 1:05 remaining in the extra session.
Villanova now advances to a second round game versus No. 6 seed Louisville (19-11) on Saturday night at 8 p.m., with the winner advancing to a quarterfinal game on Sunday night against No. 3 Notre Dame (24-6).
Sophomore forward Laura Sweeney (Marlton, N.J.) led all players with 21 points and nine rebounds in the game, including a layup with 1:29 left in overtime which tied the score at 50-50. On the ensuing Friars possession, Kane stole the ball and drove for a fast-break layup which put the Wildcats ahead 52-50 and ultimately accounted for the final points in the game.
Both teams misfired on their next shots after the layup by Kane and Villanova junior guard Lindsay Kimmel (Binghamton, N.Y.) grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed three-pointer with 13 seconds to play. It took nine seconds before Providence was able to commit a foul, which it did on Sweeney with four seconds remaining.
Sweeney missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity at the line, leading to a final chance for the Friars to tie or win the game. Teya Wright missed a potential game-winning three-pointer as time expired and the Wildcats won their conference tournament opener for the 13th time in their last 16 BIG EAST Championship appearances.
At the end of regulation, Villanova completed a game-long comeback from a double-digit deficit when a layup by Sweeney gave the Wildcats their first lead - since the opening seconds of the contest - at 46-45 with 2:59 on the clock. Villanova then went 0-for-4 from the field during the closing minutes of regulation but Providence only managed one point of its own in the final 4:45 before regulation.
Following a three-pointer by Lola Wells which put the Friars ahead 45-40 with 4:45 to play in regulation, Sweeney made two free throws with 4:16 to play and a layup with 3:47 remaining to pull Villanova to within 45-44. That was the closest Villanova had been since the opening minute of play in the first half.
Sweeney and Kane combined to score the last 16 points for the Wildcats in the game, including the layup Sweeney made for the 46-45 lead that set in motion the climactic events at the end of regulation and in overtime. In all, the leading duo for Villanova accounted for 22 of the team's 31 points after halftime.
The first half was a much different story. Kimmel made the first of two free throws 43 seconds into the contest for a 1-0 lead and then the Wildcats didn't score again for more than five minutes. In the interim, the Friars ran off 14 unanswered points and led by a game-high 13-point margin, 14-1, at the 14:16 mark of the opening half.
Providence shot 50 percent (13-of-26) from the field in the first 20 minutes and Villanova just 27 percent (6-of-22). The period culminated with the Friars taking a 28-21 lead into the intermission.
Mi-Khida Hankins was the lone Providence player to score in double figures, with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Six of her points came in the game's first six minutes. Wells added nine points and nine rebounds for the Friars, who owned a 44-38 edge on the glass.
Despite their cold shooting in the opening period, the Wildcats did get the final two points of the first half on a pair of free throws by Kane with 22 seconds to go before the intermission. Sophomore forward Megan Pearson (West Chester, Pa.) opened the second half with a layup to pull Villanova to within striking distance at five points (28-23).
Providence kept their lead between four and nine points for the next 15 minutes before Sweeney's free throws at the 4:16 mark of the second period finally got the Wildcats back within one possession.
NOTES: Villanova improved to 29-24 all-time in the BIG EAST Championship ... The team is making its 28th appearance in the conference tournament this season ... Tonight marked the eighth time that the Wildcats faced the Friars in BIG EAST Championship action ... Villanova is 6-2 in these conference tournament meetings, including a string of five consecutive wins ... One previous postseason meeting had gone to overtime, with the Friars knocking off the Wildcats by a score of 71-69 in the semifinals of the 1983 tournament ... Villanova is 0-6 all-time against Louisville, with all of those meetings coming in the regular season since the Cardinals joined the BIG EAST for the 2005-06 campaign ... The series includes a 64-48 win by Louisville at Villanova earlier this season ... Sweeney registered her 20th game scoring in double figures this season and her 13th in the last 15 outings ... She has reached or surpassed 20 points in a game four times in her career, including twice this season and twice last season ... Kane has scored in double figures four times in the last six games ... The eight turnovers committed by the Wildcats tonight were the team's second fewest of the season and the third time Villanova has had single digits in miscues in a game this season ... Providence shot 7-of-33 (.212) from the field after halftime.