On an eight-game winning streak and after a huge upset against No. 8 UConn on Wednesday night, all eyes were on Villanova to see if he could continue the hot streak and complete the season sweep against Marquette.
Behind a career night from redshirted junior forward Maddy Siegrist, the Wildcats beat the Golden Eagles 74-63 in overtime to extend their winning streak to nine and move into second place in the Big East standings.
Siegrist finished with a career-high 42 points, surpassing his previous record of 41 by scoring 16 in the final quarter and overtime. His 42 points advanced his two spots on the all-time scoring list, passing 2013 graduate Laura Sweeney and 2020 graduate Mary Gedaka to move into sixth place with 1,575 career points. She also grabbed 13 rebounds, recording her third straight double-double and eighth of the season.
Graduate guard Brianna Herlihy added 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals while senior guard Brooke Mullin added nine points.
“I say it every day, Maddy and Brianna just lead this group,” Vilanova head coach Denise Dillon said. “I think it was more of a will today, Maddy brought that will to win the game, and they’re all following suit. We’re saying ‘it’s never over’, we’re going to fight no matter what. come.
After struggling from the free throw line in their game Wednesday, the Wildcats went perfect from the charity strip on Friday, including 10-10 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
A common theme for the ‘Cats this season has been defense and tonight was no different. To overcome 41.9% of shots from the field and 28.6% from deep, the ‘Cats had to use their defensive pressure to stay in the game, and by forcing 14 turnovers and recording seven interceptions, they managed to do it.
“[Our] the balance, the effort and just the toughness on the defensive side gave us a chance to go into overtime,” Dillon said. “Then they really did it in that overtime quarter. It was amazing.
After such an intense and emotional match as Wednesday’s victory, there was always the fear that the team would suffer a disappointment and not be able to carry this momentum into their next game. Despite a slow start to the first quarter, Dillon and his team’s next game mentality kept them going through and fighting for the win.
“We haven’t even talked about it,” Dillon said of the UConn game. “We haven’t even taken the time to talk about this game and what has been accomplished. I’ve told Maddy and Brianna, but those are things we’ll be thinking about in April when it’s all ready and done, so let’s keep rolling.
Marquette started the game strong, scoring four of his first six points to take the lead with 7:48 left in the first, an advantage he would only give up in overtime. The ‘Cats managed to keep the game close throughout the first half, trailing 35-31 at the break.
The second half was more or less the same, with Villanova finding a more attacking pace and the Golden Eagles continuing to respond. The momentum began to change when the Wildcats forced back-to-back steals, sparking a 6-0 run to tie the game at 39 with 4:11 left in the third.
Marquette was able to extend his lead to five, but four more runs from Siegrist and a big block from Herlihy brought the ‘Cats within three, trailing 48-45 in the final 10 minutes of regulation time.
The fourth quarter was all back and forth, with neither team scoring consecutive baskets unanswered by the other side. After a crucial Golden Eagles shot clock violation, Siegrist punched a jumper into traffic to cut the lead to one with 35 seconds left.
The Wildcats, with just two team fouls in the quarter, committed three fouls before sending graduate guard Karissa McLaughlin to the line for Marquette. McLaughlin went 1-2 to make it 58-56, and the ‘Cats called a timeout with two seconds left.
Villanova set up an incoming play designed for Siegrist, who caught the ball deep in the post and was fouled on his lay-up attempt with 0.9 seconds on the clock.
“There are a number of side plays you can run, but when you’re at 2.2 on the clock it just has to be a direct line to the basket,” Dillon said of the play call. “I thought Brooke (Mullin) placed it beautifully, they just made eye contact, sealed in the back and she just threw it straight to the edge. Couldn’t be happier with this execution.
The captain confidently crossed the line and drained both free throws, tying the game and sending her team into overtime.
“I mean I knew they were going to come in,” Siegrist said of his free throws. “Just take your time, get them up and in.”
The energy in the Finneran Pavilion was palpable as the team prepared to enter five minutes of extra time.
“The game rocked,” Siegrist said of the team’s mood ahead of extra time. “I think everyone can attest to that, we just felt the game swung in our direction.”
Just 18 seconds into the game, Siegrist forced a steal and took off for a quick layup giving the Wildcats the lead and kicking off a 6-0 run. The Golden Eagles stopped the bleeding with two free throws, but back-to-back steals from Herlihy led to four quick runs, giving the ‘Cats a double-digit lead with 1:08 left.
Marquette fouled to stop the clock, but it was never enough as the ‘Cats fought their way through the final minute to secure the win.
With the win, Villanova moves to 17-6 on the season, 11-3 in conference, just two games behind top UConn. Marquette fell to 17-6 and 10-4, dropping to fifth in the conference standings. The Wildcats will play their fifth game in 10 days on Sunday as they travel to Seton Hall and look to complete another season on the road.