Sweeney Leads Wildcats Past South Dakota State, 71-47, in Season Opener
Nov. 10, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Senior forward Laura Sweeney (Marlton, N.J.) scored 16 of her game-high 24 points in the first half and Villanova (1-0) cruised past South Dakota State (0-1) by a final score of 71-47 in the first round of the Best Buy Classic at Williams Arena on Saturday afternoon. The win sets up a date between the Wildcats and tournament host Minnesota in the championship game tomorrow.
Tournament action began on Saturday with the Golden Gophers outlasting Washington State in double overtime to post a thrilling 87-83 victory. The championship game tips off at approximately 1 p.m. Central time on Sunday and will be preceded by the consolation game.
Sweeney scored her 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting and junior guard Devon Kane (Springfield, Pa.) added 13 points on 5-of-7 accuracy from the field, including making a team-best three shots from behind the three-point arc. In all Villanova received point production from nine different players and was able to get all 12 players who dressed into the game.
A big run by the Wildcats in the first half turned a two-point game midway through the period into a commanding 20-point margin with 3:53 left before halftime. In the second period another big spurt during the middle of the half helped Villanova turn back a rally attempt by the Jackrabbits and once again pull away to secure the outcome.
Backed by 52 percent shooting (16-of-31) in the first 20 minutes the Wildcats went to the locker rooms with a 44-25 lead. The first six minutes of the second half saw South Dakota State gradually chip away at the deficit and a three-pointer by Ashley Eide pulled the Jackrabbits to within 10 points, 46-36, with 14:08 left in the game.
Villanova responded to the comeback bid by South Dakota State in a definitive manner and went on a 14-1 run that took just five minutes. Kane drilled a pair of three-pointers on either end of a jumper by sophomore forward Emily Leer (Glenside, Pa.) for the final eight points of the spurt and the Wildcats had a 60-37 lead with 8:28 to play. The advantage grew to as many as 26 points in the closing minutes before the Wildcats settled on the final margin.
Leer scored seven points, blocked two shots and had three steals for Villanova while Sweeney added to her 24 points with six rebounds, three assists and a game-high four steals. The defensive effort for the Wildcats was particularly good in the first half, when the Jackrabbits were forced into committing 10 turnovers. South Dakota State wound up with 18 turnovers for the game and Villanova scored 14 points off of those miscues.
The teams had mostly traded points in the first eight minutes of the game and after Eide hit a three-pointer with 12:26 remaining in the opening stanza the Wildcats held a 17-15 lead. Sweeney scored the next time down the floor for Villanova and her basket kicked off a 24-6 run. By the time freshman guard Caroline Coyer (Oak Hill, Va.) finished converting a conventional three-point play with 3:53 left before halftime the Wildcats lead had ballooned to a 41-21 margin. Sweeney contributed 13 points to the run and the Jackrabbits were held to just two field goals in a span of nearly nine minutes.
Eide had 11 points to lead South Dakota State and Megan Waytashek chipped in with 10 points.
NOTES: Villanova is 28-16 (.636) all-time in season openers, including 22-13 (.629) under head coach Harry Perretta, who began his 35th season at the helm of the program with today's contest ... Over the past three seasons the Wildcats won five of the six regular season tournaments they competed in, including winning the title at the Iona Tip-Off Tournament last season ... Villanova is 76-34 (.691) all-time in regular season tournament action ... Today's game marked the 12th time that Sweeney has scored 20 or more points in a contest ... The championship game on Sunday will be the second meeting all-time between the Wildcats and Minnesota ... In the inaugural meeting between the programs Villanova tallied a 76-69 victory at the La Salle Tournament in 1983.