There was no Thanksgiving hangover after Villanova’s big overtime win against No. 14-ranked North Carolina and no need for leftovers, either.
The bucket buffet was open on Friday, and every Wildcat was eating in their 79-63 finals victory over Memphis. All five Wildcat starters scored in double figures and five different players made two or more 3-point shots in the winning effort.
“We really came out, set the tone — was really proud of our guys, especially the first 10 minutes or so,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “We had a great tournament, we got a lot better, but I still think we can get a lot more better. Proud of this team, especially these two (Eric Dixon and Justin Moore) next to me.
“... We learned a lot about our team. We got tested, we were resilient. We were in some battles and that’s what you want. You want to be tested, that’s a big thing for a team to be in battles and overcome them.”
With the win, Villanova is now 3-for-3 in the Bahamas. The Wildcats have won Battle 4 Atlantis titles in 2013, 2017 and 2023.
“Just proud of my guys and the coaches for sticking together throughout the week,” Villanova senior Justin Moore said. “We put a lot of work in each and every day, so just us grinding and coming together is what I’m proud of.”
Villanova set the tone from opening tip, racing out to a 16-2 lead over the first 5:36 of action. It was a fast start highlighted by five different Wildcats all connecting from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats’ blistering barrage was complemented by a hardnosed effort on defense. Memphis was shellshocked and couldn’t muster a solution.
Villanova’s zone look frustrated the Tigers early, and the ‘Cats were unrelenting on both ends of the court. They limited a high-powered Tiger offense to just 14 points on 14.8% shooting in the opening half.
Memphis entered Friday’s contest with the 31st-ranked offense in terms of efficiency, according to KenPom, but the Tigers had made just four shots in the first half — including three in the first 15 minutes of the game.
The Wildcats took a dominant 44-16 lead into the break.
“We know what we have on this team,” Neptune said. “We have a lot of talented offensive players. Where I thought we took large steps is on the defensive end — just locking into details, playing hard and rebounding. That’s what we gotta continue locking in on.”
The Tigers emerged out of the break with a renewed effort and played a better second half. Villanova’s Brendan Hausen gave the ‘Cats a game-high 35-point lead, when he knocked down a three-pointer with 9:12 remaining in the game.
After that, Memphis capitalized on Villanova going deep into its bench early to play reserves, and it went on a 21-2 run that stretched across five minutes to cut the deficit down to as low as 13.
The deficit was far too big to overcome, though, and the Wildcats would get the game under control after a late Eric Dixon layup broke up the big Memphis run and the ‘Cats would get some of those points back down the stretch.
After a nailbiting win that went into overtime against North Carolina, the ‘Cats got to enjoy more of a no-sweat game and a dominant performance on both ends of the court against a team that ranked in the top 35 offensively and defensively in the country.
Although Memphis was unranked for Friday’s game, the Tigers were on the bubble as the top team in the receiving votes section of the latest AP Top 25, and they came off of a win against No. 20 Arkansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals, so it’s another quality early-season win for the ‘Cats to top off a solid trip to the Bahamas.
Dixon was named MVP of the tournament.
“Happy my team got the win, nice getting recognition or whatever it may be, but just seeing my guys celebrate the win — all the staff, managers and people back home — it means more for me that they’re excited,” Dixon on earning Battle 4 Atlantis MVP.
Five different ‘Cats scored in double figures, and eight different players registered six or more points in the balanced victory. T.J. Bamba had a team-high 13 points, with three rebounds, two assists and a block. Tyler Burton, Justin Moore and Eric Dixon each had 11 points. Burton also grabbed nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block, while Dixon chipped in eight rebounds and a block. Mark Armstrong rounded out the starting five with 10 points and two boards.
Off the bench, Jordan Longino had eight points, four boards, five assists and a steal in another quality outing during the tournament. Hakim Hart had seven points, while Brendan Hausen had six points and three rebounds.
The Wildcats shot 13-of-35 (37.1%) from long range as a team.
After being limited to just 4-of-27 (14.8%) shooting in the first half, the Tigers enjoyed a better showing in the second, going 16-of-30 (53.3%) overall for the remainder of the game.
David Jones paced Memphis with 13 points and seven boards. The former St. John’s and DePaul standout had a career-high 36 points in Thursday’s semifinal win over Arkansas. Meanwhile, former Villanova guard Jahvon Quinerly had all 12 of his points in the second half. Caleb Mills added 10 points and five rebounds.
Villanova has now won four straight, improving to 6-1 overall, and will return home to prepare for its next game on Wednesday, against Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.
“We always have a growth mindset,” said Neptune on how team has evolved since loss to Penn. “Thought we locked in defensively, got a lot better defensively the last two games. That’s always been our process, and thought our guys got a lot better going forward.”