Villanova Wildcats

Jay Wright to receive John R. Wooden 'Legends of Coaching' honor

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Jay Wright to receive John R. Wooden 'Legends of Coaching' honor

Jay Wright will recieve the John R. Wooden Award's "Legends of Coaching" honor in 2018. The award goes to coaches who personify legendary coach John Wooden's standards of coaching success and personal integrity.

Wright will be honored on April 6 at the College Basketball Awards in Los Angeles.

Wright has 23 years of coaching under his belt with his last 16 coming at Villanova. In his last 13 seasons on the Main Line, the Wildcats have reached the NCAA Tournament 12 times, including a national championship in 2016 with a thrilling 77-74 victory over North Carolina.

Wright and his squad begin the 2017-18 season Nov. 10 against Columbia at the Wells Fargo Center.

No. 5 Villanova wins Battle 4 Atlantis title over Northern Illinois

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No. 5 Villanova wins Battle 4 Atlantis title over Northern Illinois

BOX SCORE

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- Villanova coach Jay Wright loves playing in November tournaments, from the chance to learn how his team responds to early challenges and experiment with which lineups work best.

Of course, it helps that the fifth-ranked Wildcats keep winning trophies, too.

Mikal Bridges scored 18 points and Villanova pulled away down the stretch to beat Northern Iowa 64-50 in Friday's Battle 4 Atlantis championship game, marking the fifth straight season the Wildcats have won a November tournament.

Jalen Brunson added 16 points and was named the tournament's most valuable player for Villanova (6-0), which has 17 straight wins in these early season tournaments -- including a run to the 2013 Atlantis championship here in the Bahamas. They've won the 2014 Legends Classic, the 2015 NIT Season Tip-Off and the 2016 Charleston Classic since.

"There's a challenge coming here," Wright said. "Everything's taken care of for you here. You're treated like a king. But this is paradise. There's a lot of temptations here. And if you get caught up in that and that's more important to you than being a good basketball and a good teammate, that can affect you.

"These guys and the guys we've had over the years, they're really good basketball players. They're intelligent and they know this is an opportunity to play great competition -- and they take it very seriously."

The Wildcats led most of the way then used an 8-0 run in the final 4 minutes to turn away the Panthers (5-2) for their third win in as many days.

"It gives us great confidence right now, knowing that we've played pretty well as a team," Bridges said. "But it can also hurt if you get too satisfied with this and get complacent."

Juwan McCloud scored 13 points to lead the Panthers, who shot 42 percent and controlled the boards. But Northern Iowa made just 6 of 23 3-pointers and failed to get to the free-throw line in a game that had just 20 total fouls.

"We just didn't have quite enough offense today," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. "I love this team. And we're going to get better. And we're going to be right there when it matters."

Big picture
Northern Iowa: The Panthers finished with two wins in three games in the Bahamas, starting with a 61-58 win against SMU then getting a couple of late baskets to beat North Carolina State 64-60 on Thanksgiving day. They just couldn't complete the three-day run.

"The thing I liked the most was the toughness part of it," Jacobson said. "We came down here and we were tough."

Villanova: The Wildcats managed to avoid the trouble that befell fellow ranked teams No. 2 Arizona and No. 18 Purdue in Atlantis. They used a second-half spurt to pull away from Western Kentucky 66-58 in Round 1, then ran off a bigger one -- 23-2 -- to erase a double-digit deficit and beat Tennessee 85-76 in the semifinals. And Bridges' leap from last year has built a scary 1-2 punch with Brunson, a preseason Associated Press all-American.

"The thing I learned is we don't quit," Brunson said, adding: "I think we really got tested in this tournament."

The key sequence
The Panthers got within 51-45 on Spencer Haldeman's 3 with 5:33 left after trailing by double figures midway through the second half, but Klint Carlson missed a 3-pointer and a jumper with a chance to bring them even closer.

Phil Booth soon answered with a 3. Then, after Eric Paschall's score inside, Bridges hit a 3 off a crosscourt feed from Brunson to push the lead to 14 with 2:03 left.

Championship tests
Northern Iowa has already played the past two national champions, though this one went much better than the first meeting. The Panthers trailed by 31 points in a season-opening 86-69 loss at 2017 champion North Carolina despite the fact the Tar Heels were down two starters -- including Final Four most outstanding player Joel Berry II.

"I would say that this shows we can play with anybody in the nation," McCloud said.

Extra inspiration
Villanova's bench was a little deeper than usual.

Ten-year-old Asher Davies, from Canby, Oregon, met Wright before the game and sat at the end of the bench during the game as part of the Make-A-Wish program. Davies was also recognized during a first-half timeout.

"I know he's been struggling with an illness," Wright said. "And then we're getting ready for the game, we think it's all about us, it put us in a really good perspective before the game."

Up next
Northern Iowa: The Panthers host UNLV on Wednesday.

Villanova: The Wildcats host Penn on Wednesday.

No. 5 Villanova hangs on to beat Tennessee in Battle 4 Atlantis semifinal

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No. 5 Villanova hangs on to beat Tennessee in Battle 4 Atlantis semifinal

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- Fifth-ranked Villanova walked into the locker room at halftime facing a double-digit deficit against Tennessee and several players battling foul trouble.

The way coach Jay Wright figured, there was at least one positive note: His Wildcats should be fresh and ready to roll out of the break.

Jalen Brunson scored 25 points to help Villanova rally from 15 down and beat Tennessee 85-76 in Thursday's semifinals at the Battle 4 Atlantis, earning a trip to the championship game.

The Wildcats (5-0) trailed 44-29 with 1:39 left before roaring out of the break with a dominating run. Villanova scored the first 11 points as part of that 23-2 burst, with the Wildcats playing far more aggressively and getting out in transition.

"I would love to tell you I came up with some great strategy," Wright said. "It was just we made it through the first half with everybody in foul trouble. ... We just said, `All right, we've got everybody back, let's go play, let's do what we were supposed to do.'"

Villanova shot 52 percent after halftime, fueled by Tennessee's 12 second-half turnovers that helped the Wildcats get loose on the break. The Wildcats also had an aggressive edge that got them to the line 24 times after halftime.

"That's how we should play, and throughout the whole game," said Mikal Bridges, who had 21 points. "You just saw parts of that today, in the beginning of the first half and the beginning of the second half. We practice every day trying to play like that for 40 minutes."

Villanova built a 15-point lead with 4:40 left before having to hold off a late rally by the Volunteers (3-1).

Grant Williams scored 20 points for Tennessee, which clawed to within 79-76 on Admiral Schofield's 3-pointer with 51.6 seconds left. But that was as close as the Volunteers got, with Villanova hitting four free throws and getting a breakaway dunk from Donte DiVincenzo with 13.2 seconds left to seal it.

"When they get points easily off turnovers, and out in transition, and also they get more possessions on offense, it's hard when you don't have those shot opportunities," Williams said. "I think their pressure really took us out of our offense.

"In the first half we did a good job of getting to what we wanted. In the second half, they just ran us out of what we wanted."

Big picture
Tennessee: The Volunteers were coming off an overtime win against No. 18 Purdue in the first round and they were poised to add an even bigger upset. But that flat second-half start wiped out a strong half's worth of work and squandered the momentum that came through their board work and converting turnovers.

"We went in and they were feeling pretty good obviously and they were saying all the right things," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "But we didn't come out and do the right things."

Villanova: That's two straight days the Wildcats put together a second-half spurt to take control in the Bahamas. They did it in Round 1 against Western Kentucky to finally break the game open, but this one -- full of active hands, deflected passes and guys diving on the floor -- brought them back in a game that was once getting away from them.

Foul issues
Villanova had five players with at least two fouls by halftime, including starting forward Omari Spellman (three), Bridges (two) and Brunson (two). The game had a total of 52 fouls between the teams.

Brunson's scoring
Brunson scored 18 of his 25 points after halftime, finishing the game 8 of 16 from the field and 9 for 9 from the line to go with six assists.

"(Teammates) give me confidence," Brunson said. "Coach gives me confidence. I put the work in, I should have confidence in myself."

Second-half numbers
Villanova scored 14 of its 21 points off turnovers and 10 of its 12 fast-break points after halftime. The Wildcats also made 20 of 24 free throws after halftime and 33 of 37 for the game.

Up next
Tennessee: The Volunteers will play the North Carolina State-Northern Iowa loser in Friday's third-place game.

Villanova: The Wildcats will play the N.C. State-Northern Iowa winner in Friday's championship game.