Published November 30, 2013
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – For all the talent that Kansas has, and it's not in dispute, there's also plenty to be said about the correlation between experience and winning.
Villanova has more experience.
That might be the simplest reason why the Jayhawks are not going to the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game.
Despite holding Villanova without a field goal for 7 minutes down the stretch and grabbing the lead after being down 12 with about 12 minutes remaining, the Jayhawks fell from the unbeaten ranks Friday night, falling to the Wildcats 63-59 in the tournament semifinals.
"We're a long ways to go," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I love our talent, I love our players and all that stuff. But the thing is, there's a difference between trying hard and actually competing. And we have to learn how to compete. And it's not going to happen overnight."
Villanova coach Jay Wright concurred.
"That team is so young," Wright said. "I'm happy we played them in November."
Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono made one shot all night — the biggest shot, it turned out — when he connected on a 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds left to put the Wildcats up for good.
Frank Mason scored 12 for Kansas (5-1). His three-point play with 34.2 seconds left gave Kansas its first lead in more than 25 minutes, but the Jayhawks couldn't hold on in the final moments.
"It was not a pretty game," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Certainly, I hate that it came down to one possession like that."
Perry Ellis scored 11, while Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid added 10 each for Kansas, which plays Texas-El Paso in the third-place game Saturday. Villanova (6-0) meets Iowa for the tournament title.
Arcidiacono was 0 for 5 from the floor, so with Kansas up one, he was Wright's choice on the play that wound up deciding Villanova's fate.
And it was the right choice.
"We had a choice who we were going to run that for," said Wright, the Villanova coach who's now 4-1 in last five games against teams ranked in the top five. "And we picked Ryan. I don't think there's a guy on our team who would doubt that. ... Everybody just knows he lives for that. When we practice end of the game situations in practice, he always makes the shot."
Sure enough, he delivered.
"I thought I was wide open, so I just pulled the trigger," Arcidiacono said.
Arcidiacono got it off in plenty of time, even as Ellis — listed as 5 inches taller — charged his way.
"Almost," Ellis said.
Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis each scored 14 for Villanova. JayVaughn Pinkston scored 13 and James Bell added 10 for the Wildcats.
Villanova led 57-46 with just over seven minutes left, then got outscored 13-1 to lose the lead — and then found a way at the end to cap a wild night where one team would go on a run, then the other would follow.
It held true to the end, with the Wildcats having the last run.
Pinkston's layup made it 36-26 early in the second half, before Kansas ran off eight unanswered points in a flash — four of them by Ellis — to get within two.
The Wildcats answered with a 12-2 run, capped by Ennis' 3-pointer with 12:44 remaining to give Villanova what was its biggest lead, 48-36. The margin was still 11 with 7:19 left, but the Jayhawks just kept coming.
That is, until Arcidiacono hit the shot of the night.
For the first 6½ minutes, Villanova made nothing. Literally, outside of a couple free throws, nothing.
It was 11-2 Kansas out of the gate, and Villanova was looking wholly overmatched. The Wildcats missed their first seven shots, not getting anything from the field to drop until Hilliard — who had scored 12 by intermission, seven more than anyone from Kansas to that point — hit a 3-pointer with 13:14 remaining.
Just like that, everything changed.
Villanova scored 27 of the next 35 points over a stunning 12½-minute stretch, turning that 11-2 deficit into a 29-19 lead, the last point coming when Arcidiacono made one of two free throws awarded after Self was hit with a technical foul.
Kansas went into the locker room down only 29-22. It could have been so much worse — after holding Villanova without a field goal for nearly seven minutes to start the game, the Jayhawks went the last eight minutes of the half without one of their own, going 0 for 7 from the floor with five turnovers during that dismal stretch.
Combined, the teams were 14 for 53 in the opening 20 minutes. Villanova shot 29 percent, Kansas 24 percent, but the Wildcats held a 28-15 rebounding edge in the half.
"It was not a pretty game," Self said. "Certainly, I hate that it came down to one possession like that."