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RADNOR — Maddy Siegrist scored 31 points and sent the winningest team in Villanova history into the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history with a 76-57 win over the 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast on Monday night.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (30-6) won their record 30th game and celebrated the March Madness milestone in front of another packed house at the Pavilion. Siegrist, the first-team AP All-American, made 13 of 24 shots in what was likely her final home game. The four-year star has left some wiggle room that she could return for a fifth season, but all signs point toward her playing in the WNBA this summer.
One thing is sure, Siegrist is headed to the Sweet 16.
The Wildcats are going for the first time since 2003; the coach of that team, Harry Perretta, watched this one from behind the basket. They will play winner of Monday’s game in Indianapolis between top-seeded Indiana and No. 9 seed Miami.
One sign from the student section said it all, “It’s On! March Maddyness.” Another fan shouted during halftime warmups, “No one can guard you, Maddy!”
Siegrist checked out to a rousing standing ovation with 1:57 left in the game and the star forward hugged every teammate down the bench. Her teammates mobbed her after the final horn as the flashed the flashed the “V” sign for their fans.
Siegrist sank two free throws with 5:18 left in the third quarter to give her 21 points, which made it 36 straight straight games this season for the two-time Big East Player of the Year with at least 20 points.
The Wildcats actually scored the first eight points of the game before Siegrist got on the board. Siegrist may be the star who topped 1,000 points this season alone but she’s had plenty of help along the way.
Against the Eagles (33-4), it was Lucy Olsen’s shot to turn this one into another March victory. The 5-foot-9 guard who averaged 12.9 points scored nine in the first quarter. The Wildcats seemed poised to run away with this one, blocking FGCU’s first two shots, grabbing every rebound and loose ball raced to a 26-11 lead.
But a 3:28 scoreless drought trimmed Villanova’s halftime lead 39-33.
Here’s the thing, Siegrist wasn’t going to let Villanova lose on its home court and become the latest men’s or women’s tournament single-digit seed to suffer an upset. Ole Miss stunned top-seeded Stanford a night earlier to somewhat open up the women’s bracket.
With Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright watching from behind the team bench, the Wildcats showed again what makes them a dangerous matchup in March.
The nation’s leading scorer, Siegrist converted a three-point play and then picked the ball clean on a steal and layup that stretched Villanova’s lead to 46-33.
Olsen buried a 3 late in the third for a 61-41 lead and the road to the Sweet 16 was completely clear. She finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Florida Gulf Coast: Sha Carter led them with 11 points. The Eagles are still looking for their first Sweet 16 in team history. They still have the record for overall wins in the tournament by a 12 seed with three.
Villanova: Coach Denise Dillon won her 400th career game and 71st at Villanova. She went 329-211 in 17 years at Drexel. The Wildcats won 24 of their final 26 home games. That helped them win 30 games, topping the 1981-82 team that went 29-4 and advanced to the AIAW Final Four.
The Wildcats are headed to Greenville, South Carolina for the Sweet 16.
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