VILLANOVA PULLS AWAY FOR 64-50 VICTORY OVER NORTHERN IOWA TO WIN 2017 BAD BOY MOWERS BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS CHAMPIONSHIP
PARADISE ISLAND, THE BAHAMAS (November 24, 2017) – If they could, the Villanova Wildcats would probably like to make a trip to The Bahamas every November. That’s because for the second time in five years, the Wildcats are returning home with the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis championship trophy.
Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson combined to sink 14-of-23 shots from the field and score 34 points to help lead No. 5 Villanova to a 64-50 victory over Northern Iowa in Friday’s championship game. The Wildcats also won this tournament in 2013, making them the first repeat champs.
“There’s a challenge coming here. Everything is taken care of, you’re treated like a king. This is paradise,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “But if you get caught up in that, it can affect you. These guys are really good basketball players, and they’re intelligent. They know this is a good opportunity to play great competition, and they take it very seriously.”
The Wildcats (6-0) led 32-29 at halftime and extended their advantage to 44-33 with 12 minutes left, before UNI (5-2) closed the gap to 51-45 with 5½ minutes remaining.
But the Panthers failed to cut into that lead on two consecutive possessions, and Phil Booth made them pay with a 3-pointer from the corner that upped the Wildcats’ advantage to 54-45. That was the beginning of an 8-0 Villanova run that put the game away.
“We ran out of a little bit of steam offensively, and that gave them their opening to get a little bit of a lead,” UNI head coach Ben Jacobson. “But I give our guys a lot of credit. We battled back.”
The Wildcats appeared to wear down all three of their tournament opponents, winning the second half by a combined total of 37 points.
“One thing I learned (in the tournament) is that we don’t quit,” Brunson said. “It’s something every Villanova team strives to do, to play hard for 40 minutes. We really got tested during this tournament, and we just kept battling back, kept grinding, kept sticking together and kept pushing through it. No matter what the fatigue was or what the score was or who the opponent was, we just kept pushing through it, knowing that we had each other’s backs.”
UNI (5-2) outrebounded Villanova 37 to 29, led by Bennett Koch with 12 and Tywhon Pickford with 10. Those extra possessions didn’t help, however, as the Panthers were 6-for-23 from 3-point range, with Pickford and Juwan McCloud going a combined 2-for-15 from that distance.
In addition, UNI committed 14 turnovers, while the Wildcats gave up the ball only three times. The Panthers also had a rarely seen statistic, failing to attempt a single free throw the entire game, as Villanova was whistled for just six fouls.
“One of the things we can take away from this game is the experience that Villanova has and how tough they are defensively, and their ability to play that way without fouling,” Jacobson said.
Brunson averaged 19.7 points and 4.0 assists per game in being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He sank 21-of-34 shots from the field (61.8 percent) and went 12-for-14 from the foul line.
Joining Brunson on the All-Tournament team were Bridges and Villanova teammate Donte DiVincenzo, along with Pickford and McCloud from UNI.
While Villanova won’t be back next year, eight teams will once again compete for the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis championship. The 2018 field will consist of Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, Butler, Dayton, Stanford, Oklahoma and Middle Tennessee State. Six of those teams were in last season’s NCAA Tournament, and Oklahoma was a tourney participant in 2016.
The annual Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis once again falls during the Thanksgiving holiday, scheduled to take place November 21-23, 2018. The 12-game, three-day tournament is regarded as one of the most challenging early-season tournaments. For more information, visit www.Battle4Atlantis.com.