A 14-0 run midway through the second half was all that Villanova needed, as the Wildcats defeated Valparaiso 68-50 on Sunday afternoon in the Women's Sports Foundation Classic consolation game held in Eugene, Ore.
The Crusaders held a 41-40 lead with 15:16 remaining in the game when Villanova went on its spurt, keyed by five points by Jennifer Hilgenberg and four by Jana Rediger. After Valpo closed within 11 twice, another 9-0 Wildcat run sealed the victory for Villanova.
Valpo went the final 15:16 of the game with just two field goals as the Crusaders shot just 20.8% (5-of-24) in the second half. Villanova, an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight team one year ago, shot 60% (15-of-25) during the same stanza.
Villanova (1-1) also opened the game hot from the field, making nine of its first 12 field goal attempts of the contest as the Wildcats raced out to a 27-16 lead with 7:18 remaining in the first half. The Crusaders, as they did in the opening round against Oregon, fought back. Seven straight points, capped off by a Suzie Hammel (Lafayette, Ind./Lebanon H.S.) three-pointer, cut the lead to four with 5:18 remaining.
A trey by Hilgenberg pushed the lead back to five, 31-26, before Valpo scored the final six points of the half. Katie Boone (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) made a pair of free throws with 2.0 seconds remaining in the half to give Valpo a 32-31 advantage at intermission.
After halftime, the Wildcats scored the first four points and eventually built a 38-34 lead with 17:20 to play. Another Hammel trey cut the lead to one, and after Jenna Stangler (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville H.S.) scored, Valpo had the 41-40 lead, its final of the game. Villanova went on its big run to put the game away.
Boone and Hammel tied for high point honors on the afternoon for the Brown and Gold, tallying 12 each. Boone went 5-for-5 from the free throw line, while Hammel made three triples. Meredith Baugher (Berea, Ohio/Berea H.S.) added nine points and a team-high five boards.
Rediger led Villanova with 18 points, making her first nine field goal attempts of the game and finishing 9-of-10 from the floor. She also grabbed eight boards. Hilgenberg added 14 points, including four treys, while Liad Suez tallied 12 points and dished out seven assists. Courtney Mix grabbed nine boards and dished out ten assists in the game.
Valpo shot just 30% (15-of-50) from the floor, while the Wildcats connected on 28-of-51 (54.9%) shot attempts. Villanova outrebounded the Crusaders 36-22 and held an 11-8 advantage on the offensive glass. Valpo forced 13 Villanova turnovers, while coughing the ball up just nine times, and the Crusaders made 15-of-17 (88.2%) free throws.
Valparaiso (0-2) will return to action on Friday evening when the Crusaders travel to Notre Dame for a 6 p.m. CST game against the Fighting Irish.