PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Iowa was rolling, holding a double-digit lead for much of the night and looking poised to fly home with a tournament championship on its resume.
That is, until the Hawkeyes went cold at the absolute wrong time.
The 23rd-ranked Hawkeyes were outscored 21-2 over a long stretch of the second half, and after fighting to get into overtime, they wound up losing to Villanova 88-83 on Saturday night in the title game at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Devyn Marble led all scorers with 24 points for Iowa (7-1). Zach McCabe scored 14 and Mike Gesell added 10 for the Hawkeyes, who scored the first three points of overtime but never led again.
“It was two really good teams going at each other,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Both teams have experience. Both teams have some young guys who are playing well. That’s why you come here. We’re thrilled for the opportunity to be here in this environment and my hope is ... we can learn from some of the mistakes we made tonight.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright was duly impressed by what he saw from Iowa.
“That’s a helluva team,” Wright said. “They run offense as well as any team we’ve played.”
Iowa would probably say the same thing about Villanova’s flair for coming up big at the right moments. A second straight night, against a ranked opponent, and all accompanied by plenty of dramatics.
It’s brought out the best in Villanova (7-0).
Tournament MVP James Bell scored 20 points and sparked the huge Villanova rally and Josh Hart added 16 off the bench for the Wildcats.
“We’ve got a lot of heart,” Wright said. “We’ve got good depth. Our young guys are growing up. Still only November, though. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Maybe, maybe not. Within a span of about 24 hours, Villanova took down No. 2 Kansas and an unbeaten Hawkeye team.
JayVaughn Pinkston scored 14 points and Ryan Arcidiacono added 13 for the Wildcats, who got two big offensive rebounds in the final seconds of overtime. Kris Jenkins scored five of his 10 points in overtime for Villanova, which was down by 15 in the first half.
“We just have great chemistry,” said Arcidiacono, whose team outrebounded Iowa 48-36. “No one’s in it for themselves, anything like that. We’re all in it for the team, we all love each other and we all battle for each other.”
Down by 12 with 11 minutes left in regulation, Bell turned the game around with a trio of 3-pointers in a span of 72 seconds. It started a 21-2 burst over a 9-minute stretch by the Wildcats and when Pinkston made a pair of free throws with 4:32 left the lead was 64-57.
“We had to stay with what we do,” Bell said. “We played Villanova basketball to the end ... and we believed it was good enough.”
Ultimately, it was. Still, Iowa didn’t make it easy.
An 8-0 run put the Hawkeyes back on top, Marble’s three-point play with 2:59 left giving Iowa a 65-64 edge.
The dramatics just kept coming from there.
“We’ve got to give them credit,” Marble said. “They came out in the second half, made the adjustments and made the winning plays.”