WKU lets No. 5 Villanova slip away in Battle 4 Atlantis

battle for atlantis

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU held No. 5 Villanova close, but ultimately fell to the Wildcats 66-58 in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

WKU led for 14:14 of the first half and only trailed by three points at the half after holding Villanova to 33 percent shooting and forcing seven turnovers. But WKU did not lead at any point in the second half and tied the game just once in the final 20 minutes.

“We’re disappointed we lost,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “I’m really proud of our team’s effort, but I think it’s the way we kind of let the game get away from us in the second half that I’m really disappointed with.”

Dwight Coleby put up his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He was the only player on either team with 10 boards.

Darius Thompson also starred with 16 points and six assists. They were the only two Hilltoppers in double figures scoring.

“He played great,” Freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth said of Thompson. “He’s experienced, he’s a good leader on the team, he knows what he’s doing. He lets me know when I’m doing too much or whenever I need to do something, all the time. He’s a great player, he’s a great teammate. “

WKU got off to a hot start in the first half, as they held the lead for the majority of the first half, and led by as much as five points. The defense started strong as well, as Villanova started the game 0-7 from the field. But a 13-4 run late and a WKU scoring drought of over three minutes helped propel Villanova into a 27-24 lead lead right before halftime.

Hollingsworth stood out with seven points on 3-3 shooting in the first half. For Villanova, forward Mikal Bridges and guard Jalen Brunson each had 10 points in the first half.

“We really got outplayed,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said of WKU before Villanova made its run. “They just really outplayed us. They were tougher, smarter, I give them a lot of credit.”

The second half was an entirely different story, as Villanova dominated the Hilltoppers in almost every aspect. The Wildcats shot 62.5 percent in the second half, and went on a 10-0 run to help pull away. WKU attempted to fight back late with an 11-1 run, thanks in part to big 3-pointers from freshman guard Jake Ohmer and senior guard Darius Thompson, but it was too little too late.

Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo had 12 second half points on 5-7 shooting from the field. After Hollingsworth’s hot start, he had just two points and shot 0-4 from the field in the second half. Thompson had 11 second half points with three 3-pointers.

“There’s a lot of things we can take from it, learn from it,” Stansbury said of the loss. “We’ll get better from it.”

WKU will play No. 18 Purdue on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT in the second round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Reporter Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 859-760-0198 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall.