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Villanova Wins NIT Again, Stanford Rallies For Third

Arkansas started Day Two of the NIT Season Kickoff with a statement in the third place game against Stanford. The Razorbacks were very competitive but turnovers hurt them in their semi-final loss Thursday Night. But they righted the ship and put together a total effort of excellence with their guards Anthlon Bell (15 points) and Jimmy Whitt (10 points) leading the attack. The Razorbacks broke out to a 25-8 start.

They won the battle of the boards 22-11 with Moses Kingsley snatching seven of them along with a blocked shot, one of five for the team in the opening half. Rosco Allen tried to drive Stanford back with a team leading nine points and the Cardinal hot 50% from the floor, but Arkansas running game set the tone from the start.

In the second half, only the hard wood floor could make Arkansas stop to take a breath as Willy Kouassi hit his back on the floor hard but was able to walk it off. At that point, the Razorbacks were still in control 54-43 with eleven minutes remaining. Jimmy Whitt picked up the pace and Stanford remained in its hole. Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson gave credit to a team who did not pack it in. “They could have folded their tent. But the game is 40 minutes long. Not 20 minutes.”

Then, a spark became a smoldering fire and it ultimately consumed the Razorbacks. Rosco Allen hit a three and suddenly it was a ten point deficit with 4:06 remaining. “I could just feel that defensively we just getting stops,” Rosco explained. When Michael Humphery hit a three with 3:03 remaining the scoreboard read 65-60 Arkansas and the feeling changed in the arena suddenly.

The finale got tasty as down 66-62 with two minutes left, Stanford had the ball and drew a foul which removed Anthlon Bell from the game with his fifth. This turned out to be a crucial moment. “In the first half he came out on fire,” Mike Anderson pointed out. “He was attacking and doing a lot of things. When he picked up the fourth one (foul) I thought he was a little tentative.”

Stanford called time after hitting one of two free throws and down three with 1:43 on the clock. A key defensive stand in the form of a rejection led to Stanford coming down and drawing a foul on its last two possessions they only converted two of four with 27 seconds remaining but they were getting closer step by tantalizing step. Humphery made a major league block that flew out of bounds, enough to force a desperate three with a second on shot clock.

The referees decided 8.9 seconds were to be put on board. Marcus Allen, who scored 23 for the Cardinal, drove and got a goal tend. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson was frustrated and was called for a technical and two free throws by Rosco Allen made it 69-66 with 2.5 seconds left. Dusty Hannahs received the inbounds and made a running shot from beyond half court and it rattled in and out of the basket and Stanford was third place finishers while Arkansas players walked in shock.

“I’m very disappointed we didn’t get the win, but like I always say the sun will come up tomorrow and we will get the opportunity to get better,” Mike Anderson admitted post-game. For Stanford forward Rosco Allen it was monumental. “It was a huge comeback for us.” Stanford leaves with a split and a feeling that they grew a lot from this trip to New York City.


(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)


The NIT Championship was next and Villanova and Georgia Tech took the court immediately after the prelim game. Villanova had the bigger fan base present. Ryan Arcidiacono set the tone early as he hit a three that rolled around to start the scoring. Georgia Tech (4-2) out rebounded the Wildcats but NIT MVP Jalen Brunson hit for nine of his leading thirteen. When he passed to Darryl Reynolds for an uncontested dunk, the Cats were in control 30-19 with three minutes in the half symbolized their dominance. “It was hard to run our stuff,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “Josh and Jalen did a really good job of getting to the rim and making plays for us.”

Villanova’s attack was well balanced. They shot nearly 50% and that kept the Yellow Jacket athletes from getting into the contest. They also were ball hawks, stripping the ball from Tech guards causing eight turnovers and Villanova finished the half up 30-23. “I’m proud of our defense.” Wright gushed.

Every time Villanova threatened to make this a blowout, Georgia Tech came back with more determination.

Charles Mitchell (16 points, 11 rebounds) finally got on track with a turnaround banker in the paint to get Tech within five. Hunt drove the baseline and scored as he hit the floor and suddenly it was a three point deficit. Then Mitchell put one back in and completed a three point play and the contest was even at 30. “I didn’t think we played our best here but I think the two teams we played here did a great job of being physical with us and taking us out of our rhythm,” Wright admitted.

Brunson then drove and made a deft hand switch to lay it in to put Villanova up sparking a 8-0 run completed by Phil Booth’s three with thirteen minutes remaining. But Mitchell was entering beast mode. He caught a short pass to lay it in and drove across the lane for hook that closed it to five. But when Booth hit a corner jumper it was back to eleven with under ten minutes left. “I’m really proud of our team,” Jay Wright shared later. “That was a good win against a well-balanced, tough Georgia Tech team.”

Then Villanova bench contributed when Donte Divincenzo shot a three from deep in the corner to make it 55-38. The Wildcats got three crazy with Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, who made the All-Tournament team, lighting it up to break it open to a nine point deficit. Villanova (6-0) was never threatened seriously again as the number eight team in the country claimed the NIT Trophy with a 69-52 victory.

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