Paradise Island, Bahamas (SportsNetwork.com) - A couple of undefeated programs take aim at the title in the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the surprising Villanova Wildcats meet up with 23rd-ranked Iowa at Imperial Arena.
The Wildcats are off to a perfect 6-0 start, although many of those victories came at home against lesser opponents before arriving in the Bahamas this week. However, Villanova raised a few eyebrows on Thanksgiving with a 94-79 win over USC, and then followed that up with an improbable 63-59 victory versus the second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks on Friday.
Also undefeated are the Hawkeyes who built their early run on five straight victories at home in Iowa City before arriving on Paradise Island. The team had a bit of a scare on Thursday when it needed overtime to take down Xavier, 77-74, but then responded with a lopsided thrashing of UTEP a day later, 89-53, in order to make it to the championship game.
In terms of the all-time series between the teams, the Wildcats have won three of the previous four encounters, including an 89-60 romp in the most recent matchup back in 2006. The lone victory for the Hawkeyes was a 97-74 final on Nov. 29, 1987.
Iowa shot an impressive 52.5 percent from the field on Friday, including 9- of-16 (.563) behind the 3-point line, not to mention 18-of-22 at the free- throw line, all of that with just five turnovers, as the team demolished the Miners by 36 points. Aaron White posted a game-high 17 points for the Hawkeyes, followed by Peter Jok and Zach McCabe with 14 points apiece off the bench. Melsahn Basabe accounted for 10 points and seven rebounds, his efforts on the glass second only to Jarrod Uthoof who posted 10 boards and eight points in a reserve role.
Although he didn't score in double figures yesterday, seeing as how he didn't need to during the onslaught, Roy Devin Marble is still the overall leading scorer for the Hawkeyes with his 15.7 ppg, followed by White with another 13.6 ppg for a group that's producing 89.9 ppg on the strength of 46.3 percent shooting. More importantly, Iowa is taking great pride in a tight defense that is surrendering just 57.1 ppg as teams shoot a dismal 18.5 percent from the perimeter.
Villanova led by as many as we points with just under 13 minutes to play on Friday, but the team actually fell behind by a point late in the meeting before Ryan Arcidiacono knocked down a crucial 3-pointer, followed by a couple of free throws by James Bell to seal the deal. Arcidiacono finished with a mere four points in the meeting, his only made field goal being the clutch triple down the stretch. Darrun Hilliard accounted for 14 points, as did backup Dylan Ennis, followed by JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell with 13 and 10 points, respectively, for a unit shooting only 34.6 percent from the floor and dealing with 16 turnovers.
Through six games the Wildcats are generating 80.7 ppg, thanks in large part to Pinkston and his 17.7 ppg, not to mention Bell (16.5 ppg) who is one of the better rebounders for the group with close to six per game. Hilliard shares in the wealth with 14.3 ppg, while Ennis is only beginning to make himself a factor with 14.0 ppg in two games.