By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
VILLANOVA — As Lucy Olsen sprinted onto the court during pregame introductions, she knew she was in for a special night.
Olsen darted from the Villanova bench to hand a t-shirt to her 98-year-old great uncle Richard Ronca, sitting courtside in a wheelchair. It was the first time he got to watch her play in person.
Olsen made it one to remember, delivering the finest performances of her career and one of the best offensive outings in program history.
The 5-foot-9 junior guard finished with a career-high 40 points in a 90-62 Big 5 win over Temple on Sunday at Finneran Pavilion.
“I was just looking for whatever’s open,” Olsen said. “I always want to be aggressive. I just took what they gave me, read the defense, tried to play at a slower pace. It all came together today.”
Villanova junior guard Lucy Olsen scored 40 points in Sunday's win over Temple. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
Olsen scored a Spring-Ford program-record 33 points in a District 1 championship win over Plymouth Whitemarsh during her senior high school season. Her previous college career-high was 24, which she set on Friday in a loss to Oregon State.
Villanova ended the first quarter on 7-0 run to grab a 20-15 lead. Temple hung around until the Wildcats reeled off nine straight, capped by an Olsen jumper, to end the second quarter with a 43-24 lead. Olsen scored on the first possession of the second half to push the ‘Nova advantage to 21 as the Wildcats cruised in the second half.
Freshman Maddie Webber added a career-high 13 points, and junior Christina Dalce tallied seven points, three assists and a career-high 18 rebounds. Graduate Aleah Nelson scored 16 for Temple.
Olsen had 26 before halftime to set a career mark before she added 14 more after the break. Temple dialed up its defensive pressure, but Olsen worked on the glass, worked off cuts, got to the basket and to the line (12-for-13) and just made a handful of ridiculous shots.
“She was persistent,” Temple head coach Diane Richardson said. “Even though we tried to stop her with different defensive assignments, she worked really hard to get open and get shots, so we’ve gotta work as hard defensively to stop a player like her.”
“She deserved it because she worked hard. She worked every second of the game.”
Maddy Siegrist, who was also sitting courtside Sunday, scored 41 points for Villanova against Temple last season. Richardson joked Villanova coach Denise Dillon must be feeding her players “magic food” before the Owls games.
Siegrist had four of the program’s six 40-point performances in program history before Olsen reached the milestone for the seventh time in Villanova women’s history on Sunday.
Now playing for the Dallas Wings, Siegrist averaged 29.2 ppg last season at Villanova on her way to becoming the school’s all-time scoring leader. Someone was going to have replace her scoring, and it’s been Olsen thus far.
She’s been on a tear to start the season, scoring 20-or-more points in each of the Wildcats’ games during a 2-1 start. Olsen is averaging 28.0 ppg three games into her junior campaign after averaging 12.4 ppg as a sophomore.
“It’s exciting. I mean, I just want to win the games, so whatever has to be done to win, my teammates did a great job finding me, setting screens to get me open,” Olsen said. “I would not have been able to score without them all being a threat and taking what was open.”
She’s been doing it efficiently too, shooting 51 percent from the floor — 12-of-22 from the floor and 4-for-6 from 3-point range on Sunday — after converting buckets at a 41.1 percent clip last season.
“Because of her effort on the defensive end, and she makes plays for us there and helps her teammates out, and then offensively the ball is in her hands so much, so it’s a different style than Maddy,” Villanova head coach Denise Dillon said. “It was finding Maddy, where Lucy can create shots for herself and her teammates. But just to continue to see her grow is all because of her will and determination to be the best.”
Olsen averaged 4.4 apg last season. She only has eight assists through three games, but she has that playmaking ability to lean back on as defenses start to game plan against her.
She’s got a game that’s definitely different from Siegrist, a 6-foot-2 forward. But it’s clear Olsen is emerging as the Wildcats’ next star, which comes as no surprise to those who have watched her work in the facility over the last three years.
“I think it’s an example of the time you put into your game,” Dillon said. “Lucy’s freshman year when Maddy was a junior, you could see as Lucy continued to progress Lucy came in and had the same mentality of working towards it. One thing Lucy doesn’t do is skip steps. She lives everything. SHe’s detailed in her commitment to getting better and learning the game. I think that’s probably the biggest growth you’ve seen this season so far.”