For the past five seasons the women’s basketball team has stood in the way of any potential Big 5 contenders. A resume filled with dominating and nail-biting victories all amassed to a 19-1 record over that span.
The Owls (6-6 overall, 1-0 Big 5) added a 20th victory to that stretch Friday with a 54-46 win over Villanova (9-3, 3-1) at the Liacouras Center. The win was also the Owls’ 15th straight in Big 5 play, tying a record set by Saint Joseph’s between the 1991-92 and 1995-96 seasons.
The Owls continued their run, but not without a challenge from a Wildcats squad that had already notched a 3-0 record in the Big 5 with wins over the Penn, Saint Joe’s, and La Salle.
“We want to win the Big 5, let it be known,” coach Dawn Staley said. “We want to win the Big 5 and we want to do it in the fashion of not losing a game, so we’re going to go after all of them.”
The defiant Staley echoed the sentiment of rest of the Owls.
“We don’t plan on losing any Big 5 games,” senior guard Ashley Morris said. “This is my city and I don’t take well to losing any Big 5 games. We come out and we’re going to play hard.”
The Owls started off the game taking the ball straight to the basket. Junior forward Shenita Landry and senior center Lady Comfort helped set the tone early with solid post scoring. Morris distributed four assists to go with seven points in the first half.
Despite several threatening Villanova runs, the Owls led from the 15:54 mark of the first half until the final buzzer.
The Owls only attempted two three-pointers the entire first half and seven for the game. The Wildcats, on the other hand, live and die by the three. Entering the game they led the nation with 11.7 three-pointers made per game. However, Villanova shooters shivered from the floor, going just 4-of-27 from downtown.
“We knew they came in shooting a lot of threes,” Staley said. “We wanted to make them a little uncomfortable and make them put the ball on the floor. I thought it was a two-game, meaning two points inside the three-point line; that would work in our favor.”
The Wildcats pressured the Owls early in the second half, cutting the lead to one on several occasions. However, poor shooting continued to handicap the Villanova offense, as the Wildcats shot just 34.5 percent from the field.
In the second half, the Owls were guided by Landry and junior forward Shanea Cotton. Despite a tender ankle, Cotton clawed off Wildcat defenders to produce 10 points and three rebounds. Cotton has worked well to compliment Comfort this year.
“I thought she came in really focused and she’s scoring on the low block-something that we’re just missing at this time,” Staley said. “I think Lady is just a little frustrated and inconsistent on the block, so I’m glad Shanea is picking it up and helping us in that area.”
Morris led all Owl scorers with 13 points and also dished out five assists. Landry added 12 points and four rebounds. Comfort grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds. In the end, the Owls controlled the glass with a 40-28 rebounding margin.
Next up for the Owls will be another Big 5 foe, as they play host to Penn on Thursday.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.