The Villanova Wildcats took their hats off in the rally for the second straight game, fighting to the last seconds in Phil Knight’s Invitational opener against Iowa State, but came back empty-handed again.
After their failed comeback against Michigan State, the Cats bounced back in the final minutes and pushed the Hurricanes into overtime, but they were unable to get past Iowa State, which held out to win, 81-79.
“(Iowa State) lost to a really good team, who played very aggressively and set the tone early,” said Villanova coach Kyle Neptune. “We threw some punches at them. To their credit, they had a lot of determination. A very good coach, very disciplined and they played tough.”
After stalemate 34-34 at halftime, the Hurricanes culminated in a 16-point lead, after bombarding the Cats 17-1 to open the second half.
“They just made some tough shots,” the Neptunes said of the Iowa State run, “They moved the ball very well. Obviously, they mixed up getting the ball on the inside with some hard-timed shots on the perimeter, so hat’s off to them.” .
Villanova responded 9-0 to generate some momentum and finally closed in on the Hurricanes in the closing moments of regulation.
Villanova finished the scoring with a 7-0 lead on the final 1:35, sparked by an Eric Dixon layup. Brendan Hausen followed the three in time.
“I thought we started the game with a decent energy level,” said Neptune. “The way they play, you give them a lot of credit, it’s very unique. We haven’t gone against it yet this year, it’s hard to emulate it in practice, so it took us a while to settle in. It definitely bothered us a little bit and we got on our heels. We’re back on our heels,” I said to our guys. By the last 4-5 minutes of the game, we were playing hard. We got into a groove and a rhythm, but it was too late.”
The Wildcats tried for the win, but Brandon Slater was able to deflect Dixon’s air ball and draw a foul, immediately going 2-for-2 to tie things up. Jordan Longino put in a solid defense in the dying seconds to leave things tied at 67 to force extra time.
Overtime ends up being more of the same, with the Cats struggling to play catch-up and Iowa State either having an answer for every basket or just keeping one step ahead of the Cats.
The Wildcats struggled with turnovers against the Hurricanes and it was one of the many factors that gave them a hard time with the offense generation, piling up 18 of them, but a costly giveaway with 20 seconds left in overtime nearly sealed the Wildcats’ hopes. Down 77-74, Caleb Daniels’ pass was intercepted and the Cyclones converted with two free throws to preserve their lead.
Although Villanova didn’t go quietly, with consecutive Daniels baskets in the last few seconds, the Cats ran out of time.
“We define ourselves differently than everyone else,” Neptune said of how he kept the team moving forward despite another disappointing result. “We had years where we were really good, and we defined ourselves differently than everyone else did at the time. Now, we define ourselves differently than everyone else. We just think about playing our next game, getting better and being the best team we can be.” By the end of the season.”
Daniels had 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and a steal. Dixon had 21 points and a 10 rebound double-double. Slater had 14 points on 3-of-10 shooting, seven boards, four assists and three steals. Jordan Longino scored seven points, while Chris Arcidiocono had six of 2-of-8, with three boards, five assists and two turnovers.
For Iowa, Gabe Kalshore scored 23 points before losing. Osun Osonyi scored 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting, with five boards, three assists, two blocks, and a steal. Jaryn Holmes finished with 12 points, five rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Robert Jones scored ten points and five rebounds off the bench.
The Hurricanes were a force in the paint all game, on both ends of the field, but offensively, outgaining the Cats in the paint, 40-16. They also got more bench production, outscoring Villanova, 37-6.
Villanova drops to 2-3 overall. With the loss, Portland will now play Friday, 3 p.m. ET, in the consolation bracket at the PK85 Invitational. This game will be available on ESPN2.
“It’s always the next game mentality,” Daniels said. “We know we have to stick together every day, and keep going regardless of wins or losses. What takes that pressure off is knowing we have each other and having the next match, the next rep, after that whatever the mentality is.”