March 8, 2009
HARTFORD, Conn. - Sophomore center Heather Scanlon (Drexel Hill, Pa.) hit consecutive three-pointers in a game-changing 21-8 run in the second half and No. 4 seed Villanova (19-12) rallied past No. 5 seed Notre Dame (21-8), 58-47, in a BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal game on Sunday afternoon at the XL Center. The Wildcats move on to the semifinals on Monday night at 6 p.m. and will face the winner of this afternoon's game between No. 1 seed Connecticut and No. 8 seed USF.
The game hung in the balance down the stretch with Villanova leading 47-41 after a Fighting Irish basket with 7:21 remaining. Neither team scored for nearly four minutes after that and Notre Dame had five offensive possessions to cut further into the deficit but with 3:26 remaining senior forward Laura Kurz (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.) ended the offensive drought with a three-pointer that put the Wildcats ahead 50-41. Villanova then made 8-of-8 free throws in the final 2:10 to secure the outcome.
The big second half run started with 10 unanswered points by the Wildcats that gave them their first lead since the opening minutes of the game. Scanlon hit a three-pointer with 13:38 left to snap a 33-33 tie and then followed with another triple 35 seconds later to establish a six-point margin. Villanova maintained at least a two-possession lead the rest of the way and reaches the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time since 2005.
Kurz registered game highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Wildcats, who shot 50 percent in the second half and owned a 37-22 scoring margin after halftime. The second half surge came thanks to 7-of-15 (46.7%) three-point shooting in the period. Senior forward Lisa Karcic (New Hyde Park, N.Y.) added 11 points six rebounds and senior guard Siobhan O'Connor (West Chester, Pa.) chipped in nine points. Scanlon's back-to-back three-pointers for six points were her only two shots of the game.
The pace of the game was of favor to Villanova, which defeated the Fighting Irish for the second time this season. Despite a slow start which saw the Wildcats trailing 15-5 with 9:18 left in the first half, Villanova cut the deficit to just four points, 25-21, at the break. Kurz scored six straight Wildcat points to cut into the Notre Dame deficit and O'Connor made a three-pointer with 16 seconds left before Melissa Lechlitner hit a jumper at the buzzer for the Fighting Irish.
Lechlitner and Ashley Barlow scored 10 points apiece for Notre Dame, which shot just 29.8 percent (9-of-31) after hitting on 45.6 percent (11-of-24) accuracy in the opening 20 minutes. Barlow converted a four-point play with 1:34 left that pulled the Fighting Irish to within 56-47 on what turned out to be the only three-pointer made in the game by Notre Dame.
Sunday afternoon's quarterfinal game between Connecticut and USF was set to tip-off at 2:15 p.m.
NOTES: Villanova is 28-22 (.560) all-time in the BIG EAST Championship and reaches the semifinals for the 12th time in its last 26 conference tournament appearances ... Today's victory marked the 12th time in the Wildcats last 14 tournament appearances that the team won its first game ... Villanova is 2-2 in the BIG EAST Championship against Notre Dame ... Kurz scored at least 20 points for the 19th time in her Villanova career and notched her ninth career double-double ... Eight of the 20-point games and six of the double-doubles have come this season.