GAME NOTES: Kicking off the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament on Thursday is a matchup between the Villanova Wildcats and the USC Trojans at Imperial Arena in the Bahamas.
The Wildcats are riding a bit of momentum into this in-season tournament as they have won each of their first four contests. All four of those triumphs came at home for the Wildcats, who had some trouble with Delaware last time out, managing a narrow 84-80 win.
Since suffering a 78-65 loss at Utah State to begin the year, the Trojans have won four straight contests in their first season under head coach Andy Enfield. The slate of teams during the winning streak has not been particularly fearsome. Last time out the Trojans faced Division II foe West Alabama and captured a 73-57 triumph.
The winner of this duel will move on to the semifinals against either Kansas or Wake Forest. The lone meeting between these programs occurred back in December of 1967 when the Trojans earned an 82-65 victory.
After leading by nine points during the second half, the Wildcats found themselves tied with Delaware, 76-76, with just over three minutes to play. Villanova was able to avoid a let down though thanks to a 7-0 run down the stretch, sparked by five points from JayVaughn Pinkston.
Pinkston has been playing at a high level early on, averaging 20.3 points per game as the leading scorer for the Wildcats. Against Delaware, the 6-foot-7 forward finished with 26 points to lead four players in double figures. James Bell (18.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) has been the primary producer on the boards as well as one of the team's better scorers. Darrun Hilliard (14.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) is also relied on for his scoring, while Ryan Arcidiacono (9.5 ppg) has yet to find his groove from the perimeter.
The Trojans gave up a few too many 3-pointers against West Alabama but won the battle inside to earn the victory. The Trojans had a 48-34 edge on the boards and blocked nine shots in the game.
Enfield has played a lot with the starting lineup and not just because of the loss of J.T. Terrell (10.0 ppg), who is sitting out as he is academically ineligible for the semester. The regulars for the unit are Byron Wesley (19.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Omar Oraby (13.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg), who are the only two players to have started in all five games. Wesley still needs to improve as a shooter, as evidenced by his 6-of-15 effort against West Alabama that yielded 15 points. Oraby isn't just a scorer and rebounder, but an effective defender in protecting the rim.
Pinkston may have some issues producing with Oraby patrolling the paint. However, with three other viable scoring options surrounding him, the Wildcats have more punch than the Trojans.
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