Villanova Slows Down Mountaineers

I should have just forgotten about it and watched the Rose Bowl. The warning signs have been there, screaming at me since I began following women's basketball in 1995.

Villanova Head Coach Harry Peretta loves to slooooooooooow it down. While producing plenty of wins, the Villanova women's basketball team has to be one of the most boring to watch in the nation.

Their entire philosophy revolves around ball control, stingy defense, three-point shots, and offensive rebounds. To make matters worse, it was all working for them Thursday evening as the Wildcats pulled off the 59-44 win over West Virginia in Philadelphia.

West Virginia led only once at 2-1 very early in the first half. They managed to tie it up at 6-6 with 15:55 remaining, but from that point on it was all Villanova. On the back of sophomore Courtney Mix, the Wildcats used a 14-3 run from the 10:49 mark to build, with the pace of the game, an insurmountable 29-13 lead over the Mountaineers.

I've sat through probably six games with Villanova. As has been the typical case with all of those games, the Wildcats managed to force the Mountaineers to play to their tempo. Walking the ball down the court, they run the shot clock under 10 seconds before attempting the first shot. Following their missed shots, the Wildcats got some easy second-chance layups while running clock the whole time.

Back on defense, Kate Bulger was double-teamed, effectively shutting down the Mountaineer three-point attack. As the outside game of the Mountaineers was frustrated, the weakness of the inside game was exposed. Searching for a shot, the Mountaineers played right into Peretta's hands, themselves not finding shots until the shot clock wound under ten. Unable to make shots or grab offensive rebounds for a quick second chance, the Mountaineers could not set up a press and move into their up-tempo style of play.

Things improved in the second half, but not by much. The Mountaineers were able to set up some pressure and score some fast break points off of turnovers. Kate Bulger nailed West Virginia's only three of the night with 8:47 left. Unfortunately, the key inside player, Brandi Batch and the key runner, Sherell Sowho, each fouled out early, sealing WVU's doom. While West Virginia outscored Villanova 31-30, it wasn't nearly enough to notch up another win.

This game was decided just the way Villanova wanted it - with ball control, rebounds, threes, and, as an added bonus, free throws. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Mountaineers 36-24. On the offensive boards, the tape shows an overwhelming margin of 13-3.

While the Mountaineers out-shot the Wildcats 41%-36%, Villanova managed to get six more shots off. While each team made 17 field goals, Villanova had five three-pointers to one for West Virginia. The Mountaineers were outscored at the free-throw line as well, 20-9. WVU had 18 turnovers. I wish there was a record of time of possession.

West Virginia was led by Big East Player of the Week Kate Bulger, who managed 14 points on 5-12 shooting. She was the only Mountaineer in double-figures. Bulger was followed by Yolanda Paige, who had nine but had an awful eight turnovers. Eartha White had seven, Sherell Sowho and Brandi Batch had six each, and Kristen Kilgore came off the bench to remain perfect from the field, going 1-1 for two points.

Mysteriously absent for the Mountaineers was Zsophia Horvath, who played only three minutes this evening. Horvath has seen her playing time go down on a fairly consistent basis since the James Madison game. Maybe I'm missing something, but early in the season, Horvath was getting a lot of playing time, even starting with physical play, consistent scoring and consistent rebounding game in and game out.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but Mary Grace Carson, who has yet to prove scoring ability and has managed a decent 3-5 rebounds per game average, continually sits in the starting lineup. Horvath has consistently played a more physical game, equaling or outdoing Carson in nearly every category in nearly every game. What gives? I leave Brandi Batch out because she has voluntarily elected to come off the bench.

Villanova was paced by Courtney Mix, who scored a career-high 20 points this evening on 6-9 shooting. Mix also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots. She was followed by Katie Davis, who scored 12, and Mimi Riley who had 11. Kelly Nash had six, Nicole Druckenmiller five, Jennifer Hilgenberg three and Jana Rediiger two.

West Virginia falls to 7-5 (0-2), while Villanova advances to 7-4 (1-0). The Mountaineers have a chance to see if they've improved against league competetition next Tuesday in a home rematch with the Miami Hurricanes, whom they lost to 69-53 in December.

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