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Villanova women clean up in Big East awards

03/03/2022, 8:30pm EST
By Mitchell Northam

Mitchell Northam (@primetimeMitch)

For the third straight year, Maddy Siegrist led the Big East in scoring. That’s nothing new.

But – for the first time since 1988 – the conference’s Player of the Year award went to a Villanova Wildcat as Siegrist garnered that honor on Thursday. The junior from Poughkeepsie, N.Y.,  who averaged a career-best 26.5 points per-game in 22 contests this season, was also named to the All-Big East First Team for the third consecutive season.

Maddy Siegrist (above) became the first Villanova player in 34 years to win conference player of the year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“Obviously, Maddy’s numbers are off the charts,” Villanova coach Denise Dillon told City of Basketball Love. “But there’s some great players in the league. I think where she led us this year, finishing with the two-seed, put her over the top. Just to see her work recognized is a great honor.”

Despite missing a handful of games earlier in the season, Siegrist finished the regular season leading the nations in field goals made per-game with 9.7. She also ranked second in offensive win shares per-40 minutes, with a 0.41 mark.

Siegrist wasn’t the only Wildcat to earn Big East honors though. Dillon was voted Coach of the Year after leading Villanova to a 21-7 record and a 15-4 mark in league play. The Wildcats were picked to finish fifth in the Big East this season, but charged up to second place.

“With this entire team, how they stepped up this year – when things like that happen, coaches get recognized,” Dillon said. “Definitely grateful and humbled by that. There was really good basketball every night in the Big East.”

Dillon won Coach of the Year four times at her previous stop, Drexel. Dillon also guided the Wildcats to their first road win over UConn since 1993. And she became just the second woman – joining fellow Philly native Dawn Staley – to beat the Huskies as a player and a coach.

“I'm just so happy with the group we have, how much they challenged me and how good they are at what they do,” Dillon said. “This is special.”

Dillon (above) picked up her fifth career Coach of the Year award, and her first at Villanova. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Joining Dillon and Siegrist on the Big East honor roll was sophomore Lior Garzon, who was named Co-Most Improved Player and to the Second Team, and Lucy Olsen, who was voted to the All-Rookie team.

A 6-foot-1 native of Israel, Garzon saw her points, rebounds and assists per-game improve this season. After averaging 13.9, 8.8 and 1.3 in those respective stats as a freshman, she averaged 13.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and two assists per-game this season. She also saw her PER increase from 15.7 to 20.1.

Olsen, a Spring-Ford High School product, started all 28 games for the Wildcats at point guard and averaged 6.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per-game in the regular season. Her assist-turnover ratio of +2.48 was 40th best national and sixth-best in the Big East.

Villanova is set to play in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday where they’ll aim to improve their resume for the NCAA Tournament. According to Charlie Creme’s latest bracketology projections at ESPN, the Wildcats are among the First Four Out.

“We understand the significance of every next game. We said that in January when we went on that stretch, and it wasn’t talks of the NCAA Tournament – it was more the significance of seeding and place in the Big East and proving ourselves… Things will take care of themselves in the end if you take care of today. And this group certainly did that,” Dillon said. “We'll see where we fall next week, but we've certainly put ourselves in that conversation.”

Dillon went on to talk about how the Big East has been a bit undervalued this season. Currently, just two teams from the conference – UConn and Creighton – are projected to crack the tournament field by ESPN.

“We’ve done some good things this year,” Dillon said. “I think, you know, Maddy – one of the top players in the nation – her team should be in the tournament. So, a lot of work to do up here in Connecticut. Definitely up for the challenge.”

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