Nov. 30, 2013
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas - Ryan Arcidiacono already had one dramatic 3-point goal on his Villanova Basketball resume. On Friday night, he added another.
A 3-point shot from the left side of the court by the sophomore from Langhorne, Pa., with 11 seconds remaining helped lift Villanova to a 63-59 victory over No. 2 ranked Kansas here in a semifinal game of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The win was the Wildcats fourth over a team ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll in the calendar year 2013. Last season, VU upended No. 5 Louisville, No. 4 Syracuse and No. 5 Georgetown in BIG EAST play.
In the win over Syracuse, Arcidiacono's corner 3-pointer with 2 seconds left forged a tie in a game that the Wildcats ultimately claimed in overtime last Jan. 26.
"It was almost the exact same spot on the floor where he hit the shot against Syracuse," noted Villanova head coach Jay Wright.
This win came courtesy of a rugged defensive effort that kept the Jayhawks in check for most of the night, even after the Wildcats found themselves in an early 11-2 hole. Villanova advanced to the finals on a night when it connected on only .346 of its field goal attempts and endured two stretches of six minutes or more without a field goal.
"That was certainly a lot of fun," stated Wright. "That was a great environment. We have a lot of respect for Kansas. That team is so young and I think that may have been a little difference there. It's amazing how (Kansas coach) Bill (Self) has them playing. I am happy to have played them in November, I will say that.
"I would not like to see that team in February or March. But that's why it's a good win. They are a very well-coached team and very tough team. You could just see they were not going to go away."
Indeed, the Wildcats led throughout the second half after building a 29-22 edge at intermission. A 3-point basket by freshman Josh Hart gave VU a 57-46 lead with 7:19 on the clock. But the Jayhawks slowly chipped away, taking advantage of a size matchup inside that was aided by the foul trouble of Wildcat forward Daniel Ochefu, who was limited to nine minutes of action.
Kansas regained the lead with 35 seconds left on a transition basket and free throw by guard Frank Mason. That capped a 13-0 surge that had the Jayhawks in front 59-58.
The Wildcats, though, had one more crack at scoring and Arcidiacono provided the biggest basket of the night after coming free on the left side off a pair of screens.
"We just had the ball last and Arch made a big-time shot," stated Wright.
"Honestly, I hadn't made a shot all night and Coach always says, `shoot `em up, sleep in the streets," said Arcidiacono. "I was sleeping in the streets until that point. Luckily, we had the ball. Darrun made a great play to get a jump ball and it was our possession. I got a couple of great screens.
"As soon as I let it go, it felt good. That was the first one all night that felt good. As soon as I made it, I was converting to get back because we were up two and there was time left."
Mason's 3-pointer caromed off the rim for Kansas with five seconds left and was collected by Bell. The senior from Orlando, Fla., was fouled and subsequently sank both free throws and the final margin was 63-59.
One day after jumping out to an 11-2 lead over USC, the Wildcats found themselves in an early hole against Kansas. The Jayhawks this time were the team on the front end of an 11-2 count as the Wildcats failed to notch a field goal in the first 6:38 of the contest.
A Darrun Hilliard triple gave the Wildcats their first basket and carved the gap to 11-5. Senior Tony Chennault then found JayVaughn Pinkston for a traditional 3-point play and the lead was narrowed to three. A Naadir Tharpe 3-pointer pushed the Kansas edge to 14-8 before another Hilliard long distance marker got the Wildcats back to within 14-11 with 10:44 to play in the first period.
The Wildcats kept chipping away at the lead through defense and rebounding, particularly on the offensive glass, where they collected nine in the game's first 16 minutes. A pair of Pinkston free throws with 4:00 to play before intermission gave Villanova its first lead of the night at 21-19.
The formula helped deliver Villanova a 29-22 halftime lead. Hilliard paced the Wildcats with 12 first half points while Pinkston added eight points and sophomore Dylan Ennis seven. VU received a giant boost on the backboards, claiming 28 over the first 20 minutes while Kansas collected 15.
"That was a big key to the game," stated Wright. "We had to be quicker to the ball because we weren't going to be bigger and stronger."
Five points scored by James Bell in the opening minutes of the second half helped Villanova extend its advantage to 36-26. But the Wildcats' Ochefu also picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and went to the bench with four with 18 minutes to play in the second half. That left Villanova undersized against the taller Jayhawks on the interior and Kansas began to assert its presence inside on an 8-0 run to shave the gap to 36-34.
Villanova went on a burst of its own and had the lead back to double digits after the Hart trifecta with just over seven minutes. But a push from Kansas set up the last minute heroics from Arcidiacono.
"We had a dead-ball situation so we had a choice of who we were going to run that for," noted Wright. "We picked Ryan and I don't think there's a guy on our team who would doubt that. Everybody knows he lives for that. When we do end of game situations in practice, he always makes the shot- no matter what he does before that."
Villanova faces Iowa in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Net/CBS Sports Radio 610).