By MIKE ANGELINA
They found a way to top last night’s drama, and in doing so, the Villanova Wildcats came out on top as champions of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The ‘Cats clinched the tournament title with an 88-83 overtime victory over Iowa on Saturday night from the Imperial Arena in the Bahamas.
Villanova erased a 15 point second half deficit to get the game to overtime. As per usual this season, they struggled early to make consistent shots and failed to get on any type of run.
Out of the under-12 media timeout, James Bell quickly erased much of the Hawkeyes’ lead with three consecutive three pointers in a 67 second span. His last one, which cut it to 55-52, really started to shift the momentum as Villanova’s pulse was as active as any point in the game.
After the tournament he was named 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament MVP. The senior scored 47 points over the three-game tournament.
Following Bell’s fireworks from outside and out of the under-eight timeout, the Wildcats went on a 12-0 run to take a 64-57 lead—six of those points coming off made tough shots from beyond the arc by both Ryan Arcidiacono and Dylan Ennis. Villanova had taken command of the game.
The Hawkeyes would not fold, and battled back to take the lead with less than three minutes left. They would hold that lead for only 90 seconds though, as Villanova created more late-game Bahamas magic.
One night after his game-winning three defeated Kansas, Arcidiacono made a pair of three pointers in less than thirty seconds. Over the last two games against both the Jayhawks and Haweyes, the point guard had only made two shots outside of the games’ final minute. But he has one more than that, three, with less than sixty seconds left over that span. He said he likes the crucial, late-game moments.
“A little bit,” he said.
Head coach Jay Wright has already gotten used to his clutch sophomore shooter.
“Arch hit some big shots, as usual,” Wright said.
Each of his treys made it a one-point game in Villanova’s favor as sandwiched between them was a lay-up and free throw from Devyn Marble. His 24 points on Saturday night led all scorers. Despite Villanova’s persistence, Iowa would not die.
“They did not surprise us, they’re well coached and they ran their stuff,” Bell told NBC Sports Network. “They’re a good team.”
After Arcidiacono’s latest three, the Wildcats had a one point lead, and Marble made one of two free throws to tie the game. Villanova held the ball for the last shot, but Josh Hart’s three with one second left did not find the net.
The game went to overtime and Ennis gave Villanova the lead, 78-75 with a three less than a minute into the extra session. Villanova would not surrender the lead, receiving five points in overtime from Kris Jenkins and the ‘Cats became tournament champions for the holiday weekend.
“We just grinded it out as a team,” Arcidiacono said.
Bell led the Wildcats in scoring with 20, but was joined in double figures by four teammates. This was a complete team effort by Villanova, who used their tremendous depth to overtake Iowa.
Particularly impressive were the efforts from freshmen Hart and Jenkins. Hart scored 14 points and played a hard-nosed game coming up with lose balls and making plays defensively and on the boards. Jenkins’ five points in overtime were the difference in the period in which Villanova outscored Iowa 16-11.
“Our freshmen were great, both Josh and Kris off the bench,” Wright said.
Arcidiacono went a step further, adding that Hart had the best game of anyone else on the team. He said the screens set by him and Jenkins greatly helped him.
“Josh Hart I thought by far played the best on this team,” he told NBC Sports Network after the game. “He and Kris Jenkins were great tonight, everybody stepped up. My shots, I got them off of them setting screens.
According to the point guard, their effort is further proof of the great team they have—not just in terms of talent, but chemistry too.
“We just have great chemistry as a team,” he said. No one is in it for themselves; everyone is in it for each other. We love each other and we go to battle with each other each night, and I just love these guys.”
Wright warned that while it is still early, he loves the heart and collection of talent on his team.
“Well, we’ve got a lot of heart,” he said. “We have good depth, our young guys are growing up, but it’s still early here in November.”
Villanova is sure to make their first appearance in the Top 25 polls this season after defeating USC, No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa. Cracking the top-25 would be their first time since the end of the 2010-11 season, though it is not something they will worry about. For now, they get to celebrate as champions of Battle 4 Atlantis, joining Harvard and Duke as the tournament’s only winners.
“I don’t even know,” Bell said. I’m just so happy we won, we’ll worry about that later.”