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Villanova caps productive weekend with Battle 4 Atlantis title (VIDEO)

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Villanova entered the Battle 4 Atlantis in a similar situation to the other seven teams in the field, as head coach Jay Wright wondered how his players would respond to three games in three days against tough competition. The Wildcats responded as a coach would hope, fighting back to beat No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa on consecutive nights. Trailing Iowa by as many as 15 points the Wildcats were able to fight their way back into the game, ultimately winning 88-83 in overtime.

James Bell led four Wildcats in double figures with 20 points, capping a productive weekend in which he took home tournament MVP honors. After averaging 8.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season the senior’s off to a good start, as he entered Saturday with averages of 16.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 45% from the field. Villanova returns four of its top five scorers from a season ago, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need more production from Bell.

This weekend Bell continued to show that he’s capable of being even more of a factor offensively, and doing so against this kind of competition should do nothing but boost his confidence as the Wildcats approach the start of Big East play. With sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono unafraid to take a clutch shot regardless of how he’s shooting from the field and both Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston capable of giving teams fits as well, Villanova has the offensive weapons needed to contend in the Big East.

Just as important in The Bahamas was the play of their newcomers, with Rice transfer Dylan Ennis and freshman Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins all contributing. Ennis gives Villanova the bench scorer they “lost” with Pinkston moving into the starting lineup, as he averaged 12.0 ppg in The Bahamas (his first three games of the season), and both Hart (16 points, five rebounds) and Jenkins (ten points) are capable of adding a similar boost as well.

With these three playing well in the second half and overtime the Wildcats were able to play with essentially five perimeter players on the floor, and they didn’t miss a beat on the glass. Villanova grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, managing to grab 37.2% of their missed shots. Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu spent much of that time on the bench, and the ability of the perimeter players to rebound gives Wright more versatility in his rotation.

So what was learned about Villanova this weekend? Quite a bit skill-wise, but just as important was the toughness the Wildcats displayed. After a poor 2011-12 campaign (13-19 record) Villanova was about to rebound to the tune of 20 wins and a return to the NCAA tournament last season. If they can build on this weekend, Villanova is capable of doing even more in 2013-14.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.