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Villanova, Penn, Drexel women’s basketball ready for their own postseasons in WNIT

Previewing the three local teams' games in the WNIT.

Penn hosts American in the women's NIT on Friday night at the Palestra.
Penn hosts American in the women's NIT on Friday night at the Palestra.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

If you want to watch some postseason college hoops in person, you’re in luck. Penn, Villanova, and Drexel’s women’s teams have punched tickets to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. On Friday, ''Nova will host Old Dominion, Penn will host American, while Drexel will play at Harvard.

Here’s a preview of the three local teams’ games:

Villanova vs. Old Dominion

Friday, 7 p.m., at Finneran Pavilion; live streaming at

Villanova coach Harry Peretta described Old Dominion (21-10, 10-6 Conference USA) as “very equipped, they are very athletic, they get to the foul line a lot — they cause a lot of fouls, and they’re just very quick.”

The Wildcats (18-12, 9-9 Big East) will be without starting guard Kelly Jekot, who hurt her knee during their Big East Tournament quarterfinal loss to Georgetown. Villanova finished fifth in the Big East and was the conference leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. The Wildcats ranked second in the Big East in three-point field goals made.

Old Dominion head coach Nikki McCray-Penson, in her second season in charge of one of women’s basketball’s traditional powers, resurrected the team from eight wins in 2017-18.

“It’s night and day from last year,” said McCray-Peonson, who was a three-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist as a player. “We’ve been on the road, and we’ve won on the road. We’re a team that knows that we can win on the road when we have to. So, hopefully, that experience will give us the confidence to go in there and win.”

McCray-Penson described last season’s shortcomings as the program building a culture. This season was about being rooted together.

McCray-Penson was an assistant to Dawn Staley at South Carolina. McCray-Penson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and has been in remission for five years. In the midst of rebuilding the Monarchs, she lost her mother and grandfather last year.

“You just have to fight," McCray-Penson said. “You have to count your blessings and be thankful.”

Penn vs. American

Friday, 7 p.m., at the Palestra; live streaming at

The Quakers (23-6, 12-2 Ivy League) came up short for an at-large bid after losing the Ivy League Tournament final to Princeton. They have an excellent opportunity at home against an American squad (22-10, 16-2 Patriot League) that ranks No. 71 in the RPI. Penn is No. 57. The Eagles are 3-2 in March; Penn is 5-1.

The Eagles got an automatic WNIT bid after losing the Patriot League Tournament championship game last week.

“They’re just very well coached," Penn coach Mike McLaughlin said. “They’re talented, they are going to shoot the three, they are extremely disciplined … . Whoever can control the tempo will have the best opportunity.”

The Eagles ranked second in the Patriot League in three-pointers made behind conference champion Bucknell. Penn, which led the Ivy League in perimeter defense, has a strong post combo in Eleah Parker and Princess Aghayere.

Drexel at Harvard

Friday, 7 p.m., at Lavietes Pavilion, Boston; live streaming at ESPN+

Denise Dillon’s message to her players was simple: “Here you have a chance to show you are a little better than we finished last week. That’s exactly what we’re expecting."

Drexel (24-8, 14-4 CAA) is ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring defense and No. 1 in the CAA in perimeter defense. The Dragons also led the CAA in assists per game. Drexel had a 14-game road winning streak this season.

Harvard (16-12, 9-5 Ivy League) finished third behind Penn in the Ivy standings. Dynamic guard Katie Benzan leads the Crimson, averaging 14 points and four assists a game. The Crimson move the ball extremely well and led the Ivy League in assists per game.

Last month, Drexel had a shot at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Although that didn’t work out, Dillon is happy that her team can just go out and play.

“It’s always tough with the mid-major programs," Dillon said. “You have to rely so much on your entire schedule, and looking back at some of the non-conference games, we really couldn’t afford any losses. We would have had to go straight through winning them, and then you can handle a couple [losses] in-conference.”

These teams met in the 2013 WNIT, with Drexel wining, 82-72.