Enthusiasm and high energy can help a basketball team overcome a lot on the court, but sometimes youth and inexperience can simply lead to too many mistakes to be able to overcome.
Such was the case for the Villanova women’s basketball team early Sunday afternoon. In their first home game of the season, the Wildcats lost a closely contested 72-69 game to George Washington at the Pavilion.
Though the game ended with a loss, the Wildcats kept it close until the very end–thanks in large part to newcomer, Jannah Tucker. The 6-foot wing scored a team-high 21 points and a pair of rebounds. She played an integral part in the success of the team throughout the game, especially at the beginning.
”It was great; it was amazing,” Tucker said. “Would have liked the win, but it was great to be back out there. Have a great team, I love playing with them every day, so it was great to kind of play and show everyone how we play together.”
Three Wildcats scored in double figures. Aside from Tucker, Megan Quinn added 18 points, while Alex Louin chipped in another 12. Louin, Villanova’s 6-2 junior guard, has now scored in double figures in all of her games thus far this season.
Tucker introduced herself rather quickly, scoring the first basket of the game to give the Wildcats an early lead. The Colonials then got ahead and from there, it became a back-and-forth game. Adrianna Hahn sank two free throws at the end of the first quarter to end a five-point swing for that ‘Cats that cut into George Washington’s lead, making it 15-14 going into the second.
After the break, Tucker scored on a long jumper to get the Wildcats going.
“She kept us in the game the first half singlehandedly,” said Villanova head coach Harry Perretta.
Tucker was stellar in her first game at her new home, making it seem like she had already been taking shots at the Pavilion long before she arrived. An academic junior, she spent two years at Tennessee before transferring to Villanova. Tucker redshirted her first year at Tennessee, and during her sophomore year suffered a season ending injury after only being in a few games. Following those setbacks, she finally found her way to Villanova.
Tucker played a total of four minutes over two games for the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in the 2014-2015 season, which were the only two times she’s seen the court in college basketball prior to this fall with Villanova. Because of the NCAA transfer rules she was forced to sit out last season, and will lose a year of eligibility since she redshirted once already.
After a tumultuous time at Tennessee, the Maryland native was looking for a fresh start, somewhere closer to home. She wanted to have more support on and off the court, due to her history with injuries–she needed someplace new to grow. Spend five minutes with her, and she’ll tell you herself.
”I came to ‘Nova for this community,” she said. “I’m from Baltimore so it’s closer to home, and I wanted to go to a program that I knew was very authentic, that I knew would take care of me. And Harry is one of the greatest guys and greatest coaches, so I just wanted to be around a system that could feel like home.”
After spending most of the last three years on the bench, whether it was sitting out due to redshirting or injuries, she couldn’t seem to get back on it. She was a staple on the court, sitting out for only two minutes of the game.
She was needed as the lead changed four times throughout the second quarter, and was eventually tied up by halftime, thanks to a buzzer-beating layup by George Washington’s Caira Washington. Washington led the Colonials with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists.
”We just have a very inexperienced team, and every time the game got close, an inexperienced player on our team made a mistake,” Perretta said. “ We cut it to two, then we have a freshman out there who fouls a kid on a jump shot.”
“We just have too many inexperienced players that don’t really know what they’re doing yet,” Perretta added. “They almost have to play their way into it.”
At one moment with just over three minutes left in the game–with the Wildcats trailing by four–it seemed like almost all of the women on the court dove for a loose ball. An amazing show of effort and hustle led to cheers from the crowd, although the jump ball went to George Washington in the end. That hard, fast-paced style of play was visible throughout the game, not just in the last few plays.
“GW’s a great team, they play so hard every single possession,” Tucker said. “They don’t take possession off, and that hurt us in the end.”
No stranger to tough work, Tucker has seen her fair share of basketball games, even if there aren’t yet many on the college level. Her last two years of high school, and her season at Tennessee were mostly consumed with injury, but the forward has put in enough work to show us she is truly a force to be reckoned with. As a player for both the U.S. U-16 and U-18 teams, she brought home two gold medals at the FIBA Americas Championships. Even with sitting out her senior year of high school, she was listed as a top-10 recruit, and after her first few games with the Wildcats, she’s gotten her opportunity to prove that she was worth the hype.
Tucker and the Wildcats will be spending their Thanksgiving at sunny Daytona Beach, Fla. for the San Juan Shootout. They will take on Troy this Thursday to start.