March 19, 2008
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Laura Kurz scored with one second remaining in regulation to give Villanova a 53-52 win over American in the first round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament on Wednesday at The Pavilion.
The Eagles inbounded the ball and Liz Hayes drove to the lane, but missed the lay-up. Liz Leer grabbed the offensive board but also could not get through the traffic to the hoop. The ball went out of bounds off Villanova, and AU had one more chance with 10 seconds left. Leer was left alone under the hoop for the easy two, but the Eagles left Villanova one second too many left on the clock, as Kurz scooped up a Stacie Witman air ball and hit a shot in the paint as time expired to give Villanova the 53-52 win.
With the Eagles down just one, Leer had a block, but AU could not convert. Villanova had the ball with 40 seconds left, but Leer came up with another huge block to give American the ball with 26.6 ticks on the clock.
Both teams came out shooting in the second half. The Eagles got six early points from Hayes and a Pam Stanfield basket to trail 35-31. The pace slowed and American still found itself down by four, 44-40, when an errant Kurz three was off the mark and was picked up by Sahar Nusseibeh with 7:18 left in regulation. The Eagles used the possession to cut the Wildcat lead to two on a Stephanie N'Garsanet lay-up.
Stingy defense shut down Villanova on the next two possessions and the Eagles capitalized. N'Garsanet hit a pair of free throws to knot the score at 44-44 with 5:56 on the clock. Another off the target Wildcat three turned into an Eagle fast break that sent Stanfield to the line to give AU its first lead since the 17:22 mark in the first half, but she was unable to convert. The Eagles grabbed the defensive board and N'Garsanet scored in the paint to give American the 46-44 advantage.
Villanova reclaimed a 48-46 lead, but N'Garsanet scored her eighth straight point to tie it back up. The Wildcats responded with a matching bucket in the paint, and had a 50-48 lead.
Villanova opened the scoring on a 3-point basket on its first possession of the game to take an early 3-0 lead. American responded with a Talicia Jackson bucket on the other end of the court to cut the deficit to one. The two teams went back and forth, with the Eagles emerging with a 10-8 lead on a Hayes trey with 13:31 left in the first. Villanova would reclaim the lead, up 12-10, at the 12:23 mark when Tia Grant hit the Wildcats' third three of the game.
Neither team was able to put points on the board over the next three minutes until Michelle Kirk finished a lay-in off a Maggie Smith-Davidson feed to knot the score at 12-12 with just over nine minutes to play.
With the score tied at 14-all, Villanova used a Maria Getty three and a couple of American turnovers that translated into Wildcat points to open up a 21-16 lead with just under four minutes left on the clock.
With Villanova up 25-18, Ashley Yencho drained her first shot of the game from beyond the arc with 41 seconds to go to cut the Wildcat lead to just three. Stacie Witman hit a pair of free throws and Hayes scored her eighth points of the half to put the score at 27-23 at the intermission.
American (18-14) was led by its seniors, who played their final game in the red, white and blue. Hayes finished with a game-high 14 points and three assists and fell just three baskets short of tying the career 3-point field goals made record. N'Garsanet scored 13 points, two steals and a block. Smith-Davidson scored four points and added three rebounds and three assists to end her career, while Leer rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points and added two blocks, an assist and a steal. Kirk and Jackson had a team-high five rebounds.
Villanova (16-15) was led by Kurz's 13 points and three blocks. Stacie Witman grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, as the Wildcats out-rebounded the Eagles by a 34-31 margin.
With the defeat, American's season ends as one of the most successful in program history. The Eagles, who were invited to the WNIT as the Patriot League Regular Season Champions, advanced to post-season play for only the second time ever. The 1997-98 squad also played in the WNIT. AU had a program record 11-game winning streak that extended into the first round of the conference championship and became just the third team in PL history to finish the league road portion of the schedule undefeated.