Villanova (3-0) vs. Alabama (3-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 16, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,786) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Villanova , Alabama 2-0. Away Record: Villanova , Alabama 0-0. Neutral Record: Villanova 1-0, Alabama 1-0. Conference Record: Villanova 0-0, Alabama 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Villanova Wildcats and Alabama Crimson Tide both gutted out tough victories in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night and as a result, will meet for the tournament title on Friday.
Jay Wright's Wildcats fought tooth-and-nail with the Purdue Boilermakers in on of the semifinal matchups in New York City and prevailed in overtime, 89-81 to remain unbeaten on the season. Villanova opened its season with a pair of wins over the District of Columbia (78-58) and Marshall (80-68).
Anthony Grant's Crimson Tide have taken a similar path to this title game. After posting wins over both South Dakota State (70-67) and West Alabama (80-49) in the Tuscaloosa Regional, Alabama nearly allowed a 15-point second half lead to vanish, but drained a 3-pointer with just 13 seconds remaining to hold off Oregon State on Thursday night.
These two teams have split two meetings all-time. Villanova earned a 102-84 victory in the 1977 NIT. Alabama returned the favor in the 1991 Rainbow Classic in Hawaii, 78-76.
Villanova watched a six-point lead at halftime evaporate and then had to make a feverish comeback, trailing by seven points with a minute left in regulation to force overtime, before outlasting Purdue to earn a spot in Friday's final. In the extra session, it was Jay Bell who came up huge, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to distance the Wildcats from the Boilermakers. Villanova placed four players in double figures, led by Darrun Hilliard's 22 points. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono added 18 points and six assists, while JayVaughn Pinkston and Bell finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Arcidiacono has made an instant impact for Jay Wright with his scoring and distribution skills. The youngster leads the team with 18.0 ppg and 5.3 apg. Bell and Hilliard provide plenty of scoring depth, adding 14.3 ppg.
The Crimson Tide held a 15-point second half lead, but allowed Oregon State to use a 25-10 run to tie things up late, before sophomore guard Rodney Cooper drilled a 3-pointer to provide the game-winner in a see-saw battle. Trevor Lacey led the Tide in scoring in the win, posting 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Trevor Releford came off the bench to add 14 points to the cause, while Cooper finished the game with 12 points.
The Crimson Tide are off to a 3-0 start, but haven't done so with flashy offensive stats. The team is shooting a steady .462 from the field, but it has resulted in a modest 71.7 ppg. At the other end, Alabama is allowing just 59.3 ppg. Lacey has been the driving force at the offensive end in the early going, averaging 19.3 ppg on the strength of 60.6 percent shooting from the floor and a ridiculous 64.7 percent from behind the arc (11-of-17). Releford and Cooper have been strong contributors as well with 15.3 and 15.0 ppg, respectively.
The Wildcats are feeding off the play of Arcidiacono thus far and the youngster has delivered. However, Villanova will need to get someone to challenge Lacey along the perimeter, or Alabama will walk out of the Big Apple with a tournament title in hand.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 72, Villanova 70
11/16 10:44:53 ET