It wasn't pretty for the first 25 minutes or so of play, but Villanova made big adjustments at the half to overcome a 9 point first half deficit to defeat the Iowa Hawkeyes 88-83 in overtime to win the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. James Tahj Bell led the 'Nova scoring with 20 points, and was named Tournament MVP after the game. Roy Devyn Marble led all scoring with 24.
The first half looked like a death sign for the Cats as they turned the ball over 12 times to the Hawkeyes 6. They did not control the tempo which led to such sloppy play. Almost a third of Iowa's points were off of the turnovers.
As we have noticed, 3 point performance is a key contributor to how well the outcome is for the Wildcats. At the 12:44 mark in the first half, Iowa was 1-3 behind the arc, compared to the Wildcat's 2-7. The missed 3's acted as turnovers for the 'Cats as these heaves equated to 1-and-done possessions. Iowa's quick coast-to-coast offense devoured these kinds of touches from Villanova. Also at this point, Villanova turned the ball over 6 times to Iowa's 1.
The second half sent out a different team entirely, as the free throw percentage went from 40% to 80% and only committing 5 turnovers the rest of the game. The 'Cats also boosted their rebounding margin, ultimately outrebounding Iowa 48-36, Bell leading the way with his own 9.
Daniel Ochefu didn't play much in this slugfest after some early turnovers, and a technical foul after exchanging pushes with Melsahn Basabe. To be fair, the technical was a harsh call as Basabe initiated the little contract there was between the players. Chef then went to the bench and could not be calmed down. He did not see the court the rest of the game. He finished with 4 blocks, 1 rebound and 3 turnovers with no field goal attempts. I have been a big Ochefu-hater, but even I was ashamed of this.
JayVaughn Pinkston also did not see the court in OT, most likely for rest after playing all down low by himself. He contributed 14 points and 7 rebounds on efficient 5-10 shooting. His drives to the basket helped calm Villanova's offense, taking away the 3-point attempts that were proving to be ineffective. His spin moves down low, along with his 3-point plays, paved the way for James Tahj Bell to hit back-to-back-to-back triples to finish off a 21-5 run for the Wildcats in the middle 10-minute frame in the second half.
Roy Devyn Marble was incompetent in the first half, going only 1-7 in the first half. The senior guard averages 15.7 points per game, and that side of him came alive in the second half as he scored 22 points in the second half and OT combined. He, along with the entire Hawkeye squad, responded fast to any 'Nova basket time and time again, and his efforts cut into the Villanova run with an 11-1 run of their own.
Iowa forwards Zach McCabe and Aaron White tested the 'Cats front court throughout the game, as they also drove to the basket and drew plenty of fouls, ultimately leading to Darrun Hilliard fouling out. Guard Mike Gesell also fouled out in regulation, which was one of the biggest reasons Villanova ended up victorious. His back court defense caused many of the missed 3-pointers on the Wildcat end, and his absence led to a 2-4 effort behind the arc, which was all in a 6-0 mini-run the Wildcats put together to make a 3 point lead.
Put together Ochefu's outburst with Pinkston needing some rest on the bench and you got your freshmen Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart making some noise, each finishing with double digit points. Hart's determination on the floor was phenomenal - on one possession alone he had 3 plays to save the ball from going out of bounds, including two where he dove into the stands. Their endeavors were especially important tonight, and will continue to be so if Ochefu rides the bench for an extended time.
Ryan Arcidiacono was in the mind of the Hawkeyes, as on their final possession of the second half, he was double teamed in order to make someone else take the last shot. No need to repeat the Kansas blunder, they thought. In the end, it didn't matter. Arch finished with 13 point on 4-9 shooting, all 3-point attempts. He also dished 3 assists and 4 rebounds.
Both Arcidiacono and Bell were interviewed at the end of the game, and they discussed how the team came together and the chemistry they had. It definitely showed.
The Wildcats next showdown is December 4th vs. Penn. It will be back at the Pavilion and air on Fox Sports 1. I can't begin to describe how loud I think it'll be.
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