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Villanova WBB holds down Richmond, runs win streak to four

11/30/2023, 11:45pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

VILLANOVA — Richmond came to the Main Line on a roll.

Villanova’s women, even short a few key contributors, had what it took to absorb the momentum, handle the Spiders’ style and throw it right back in their face. 

Behind yet another big performance from Lucy Olsen, the Wildcats extended their own winning streak to four with a 67-57 victory at the Finneran Pavilion on Thursday night. 

Lucy Olsen (above) had her second 30-point outing of the season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Richmond (6-2) had won six straight while scoring at least 74 points in each of them, Cardinal O’Hara grad Maggie Doogan leading a group that’s one of the favorites in the Atlantic 10. But the Wildcats held them to 41% overall (22-of-54) and 30% from 3-point range (6-of-20), forcing 15 turnovers along the way.

“Yeah, they have nice pieces, a great system, they were averaging 78 coming into the game,” Villanova coach Denise Dillon said. “Put a real challenge in front of our team with 58 [points] being the goal, and they rose to the challenge.”

Doogan, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who came into the night averaging 16.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg, had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in front of close to 100 friends and family who came to cheer her on. But the Wildcats clamped down on her supporting cast, continuing a strong run of play even while a few rotation members have gone down with injuries.

“I think it comes with defense, when we’re getting stops we play better on offense,” Olsen said. “They like to slow it down and they’re a super-smart team so we can’t play into their game, we have to play our own game.”

Olsen, building on a terrific start to her junior season, went for 30 points on 12-of-25 shooting (1-7 3PT). The Spring-Ford alum has scored double digits in every game, at least 20 in all but one outing with a high of 40, now averaging 24.8 ppg on the season, in the top five in the country. 

She also dished out four assists without a turnover while playing all 40 minutes, pacing a ‘Nova side that only turned it over nine times overall.

“I thought overall we did a great job, single-digit turnovers,” Dillon said. “It’s Lucy showing her ability and the ball in her hands a lot, scoring, but we need everyone to be a threat and option out there, finding out who that two, three, four spots are going to.”

That’s been a little tough of late for Villanova (5-1), with injuries forcing some rotation alterations. Freshman guard Maddie Webber (7.6 ppg) was heating up but went down with an ankle injury; Dillon called her “week to week,” saying the 5-10 guard would “for sure” return this season but not in the immediate future. Out “a little longer” is sophomore Megan Olbrys, who had foot surgery last week, with Dillon saying her timeline is still unknown.

Down the stretch, Villanova got the plays it needed to hang on from its supporting cast. Junior point guard Zanai Jones hit a big triple from the corner with 3:10 left to push the advantage to nine, 61-52; a couple Wildcats offensive rebounds helped them extend some possessions, one of which ended in a pair of Zanai foul shots which made it 63-52 with 73 seconds to play.

Bella Runyan had the dagger, a layup off a steal and feed from center Christina Dalce which made it 65-54 in the game’s final 40 seconds. That type of clutch play from everybody not named Lucy Olsen is a “must” for Villanova’s future success, Dillon said.

Kaitlyn Orihel (above) is averaging 8.3 ppg through her first four games. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“We’re not (winning) if we’re going 1-on-5,” she continued. “Lucy was obviously carrying us early, she was the only one really scoring, and then we started opening it up. [...] Yes, we’re going to have the ball in her hands — especially when the clock’s going down — to create something, but everybody has to be ready for the ball, she’s going to find them.”

Junior wing Kaitlyn Orihel, an Archbishop Wood grad, had a strong all-around game with eight points, five rebounds and three assists without a turnover in 31 minutes. After missing the first two games due to an offseason injury, she’s averaging 8.3 ppg after pouring in 14 against Wake Forest in a road win last weekend. That’s a significant uptick from the three points she averaged as a freshman and sophomore. 

“I think it was big for us that Kaitlyn had a nice night, because she played really good basketball down at Wake Forest as well,” Dillon said. “Stringing together two, that’s what we’re looking for, the reliability, the consistent scoring.”

The two teams traded leads early, all of Richmond's eight-plus minutes with the advantage taking place in the first and second quarter. Villanova closed the second quarter on an 11-0 run over four minutes to go into the half up nine, keeping the lead between eight and 13 points the entire third quarter, never letting it get below six in the fourth.

Villanova’s got another tough road game upcoming at Columbia, whose 4-4 record belies the fact that it’s played Duke to four points and Florida to two points while beating Providence and Seton Hall.

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