SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On a campus known for athletic tradition, the ninth-seeded Villanova women’s basketball team woke up the echoes of its own past greatest Friday night, beating eighth-seeded South Dakota State, 81-74, in an overtime thriller for the Wildcats’ first NCAA tournament win in 14 seasons.
The first-round triumph in the Spokane Regional sets up a matchup at 7 p.m. Sunday of Philadelphia-bred coaches with Villanova’s Harry Perretta going against Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw here in the Irish’s Purcell Pavilion.
In the opener, Notre Dame (30-3), the top seed, had an easy time dispatching 16th-seeded CSUN, 99-81, to finish the Matadors’ season at 19-16.
Perretta’s favorite weapon — the three-point shot — carried the Wildcats (23-8) to an explosive start and a sizzling finish. But it almost destroyed them when the Jackrabbits (26-7) hit a long one of their own as time expired to extend the game another five minutes.
“I just thought it was a great game,” Perretta said. “If you were watching, it was entertaining, both teams made tough shots, both teams made runs, it was a fun game to play in, and for an 8-9 seed, it was a perfect game.”
Villanova, in its first NCAA appearance in five seasons, put up 38 attempts from beyond the arc, connecting on 16, the bulk of them from Jannah Tucker and Adrianna Hahn, with six each.
Hahn, out of Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, had a team-high 24 points, while Tucker, a transfer from Tennessee, scored 20 and Alex Louin had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Macy Miller had a game-high 25 points for South Dakota State.
The Wildcats came out blazing from with Hahn nailing three bombs as they built a 26-15 lead after the first quarter.
Then it was a matter of holding off the opposition, who spent the rest of the game shaving the advantage until Madison Guebert, who had 21 points, fired one from deep to leave the outcome in doubt for another five minutes.
It could have been a crusher, but Villanova was able to shake it off.
“I think we were very shocked at first,” Tucker said. “But then we said, it’s another five minutes, we have to buckle down, play another five, and give it our best shot.”
Hahn added, “When I saw that shot go in, my heart sunk and I just couldn’t believe we were going to continue playing the game, but like ‘Tuck said, we just have to keep playing like we did in the beginning when we got a big run on them, that’s exactly what we have to do in the overtime.”
After the teams exchanged baskets in the overtime, Tucker with a pair of three-pointers and Hahn with another sent the Wildcats on a 9-0 run to take control and set up the St. Patrick’s Day weekend showdown with the Irish.