Dec 1, 2013, 1:18 AM EDT
Villanova entered the Battle 4 Atlantis in a similar situation to the other seven teams in the field, as head coach Jay Wright wondered how his players would respond to three games in three days against tough competition. The Wildcats responded as a coach would hope, fighting back to beat No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa on consecutive nights. Trailing Iowa by as many as 15 points the Wildcats were able to fight their way back into the game, ultimately winning 88-83 in overtime.
James Bell led four Wildcats in double figures with 20 points, capping a productive weekend in which he took home tournament MVP honors. After averaging 8.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season the senior’s off to a good start, as he entered Saturday with averages of 16.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 45% from the field. Villanova returns four of its top five scorers from a season ago, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need more production from Bell.
This weekend Bell continued to show that he’s capable of being even more of a factor offensively, and doing so against this kind of competition should do nothing but boost his confidence as the Wildcats approach the start of Big East play. With sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono unafraid to take a clutch shot regardless of how he’s shooting from the field and both Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston capable of giving teams fits as well, Villanova has the offensive weapons needed to contend in the Big East.
Just as important in The Bahamas was the play of their newcomers, with Rice transfer Dylan Ennis and freshman Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins all contributing. Ennis gives Villanova the bench scorer they “lost” with Pinkston moving into the starting lineup, as he averaged 12.0 ppg in The Bahamas (his first three games of the season), and both Hart (16 points, five rebounds) and Jenkins (ten points) are capable of adding a similar boost as well.
With these three playing well in the second half and overtime the Wildcats were able to play with essentially five perimeter players on the floor, and they didn’t miss a beat on the glass. Villanova grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, managing to grab 37.2% of their missed shots. Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu spent much of that time on the bench, and the ability of the perimeter players to rebound gives Wright more versatility in his rotation.
So what was learned about Villanova this weekend? Quite a bit skill-wise, but just as important was the toughness the Wildcats displayed. After a poor 2011-12 campaign (13-19 record) Villanova was about to rebound to the tune of 20 wins and a return to the NCAA tournament last season. If they can build on this weekend, Villanova is capable of doing even more in 2013-14.
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