NEW YORK (AP) — Villanova's Maddy Siegrist signed autographs and took selfies with adoring young fans for about 30 minutes after helping her No. 14 Wildcats beat St. John's this week, a sign of the increased attention she's been getting on and off the court.
She leads the nation in scoring with an average of 29.4 points per game (last year, she was No. 2 behind Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, averaging about four points less), and set Big East and school records this season.
“You can just see that transformation of Maddy’s game,” Villanova coach Denise Dillon said. “I think the schedule we put together where we played some of the national contenders helped.”
Siegrist scored a career-best 50 points against Seton Hall on Feb. 11 — the game before the St. John’s win — to set the single-game and career scoring record in the conference. But she's quick to deflect talk of where she fits in with the best players in the country, focusing more on how she can help Villanova (23-4) keep winning.
“You’re aware of it,” Siegrist said. “Honestly, you want to do whatever you have to do for your team to win. Sometimes it’s scoring.”
The team has won 14 of its last 15 games with the lone loss coming against UConn — a five-point defeat — and its best ranking since 2003,
Villanova has a chance to move into a first-place tie in the Big East with a victory over No. 6 UConn on Saturday. The game will played on national television in a sold-out arena, the second time that's ever happened.
“It’s awesome. It’s so exciting to see all the attention our program has gotten over the last month,” Siegrist said. “We're not doing anything different than we’ve been doing.”
Siegrist is a huge reason why. Her efforts have impressed Villanova alums, including Knicks star Jalen Brunson, who had his jersey retired earlier this month.
“Maddy? She’s unbelievable. She’s unbelievable. She had 50 points,” the former Wildcats guard said. “I think she’s the all-time leading scorer, men’s and women’s, so she’s unbelievable. And, just wow. As soon as her last game ends, they should just hang (her jersey) up right there. As soon as she’s done, just hang it up.”
When she was in New York, Siegrist's family hosted their annual dinner for the team. Her mom grew up near St. John's and the family spent summers in the area. She became friends with the community youth teams and many of them came out to support her against St. John's, wearing shirts with Siegrist's name and number on the back.
“Looking back to when I was a little kid, you tried to get a pamphlet signed by a player and hang it in your room," Siegrist said. "Now I want to take the time and sign all the autographs and take all the pictures I can.”
Her fans weren't disappointed in the game: Siegrist scored 39 points against the Red Storm, including 19 in the third quarter. That scoring effort put her atop the Philadelphia record books as the city's all-time women's Division I leading scorer.
“For what she’s done for the league and for them, she’ll be remembered for a long time. I don’t know if we’ll see another one like her,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “I’ve been in the league 20 years and I’ve watched (Diana) Taurasi, Maya (Moore), (Breanna) Stewart and all those guys at Connecticut. They are all different and difficult to stop and she is as difficult as anyone I’ve seen in my time here.”
Siegrist still has another year of eligibility left at Villanova because of the pandemic, but won't decide until after the season whether she'll come back.
“I kind of am going in that this might be it,” she said. “I kind of had that mentality all year. I'll sit with my parents and decide. My time at Villanova has been great; if it's time for me to move on, I'll know."
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.
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