Villanova guards Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges continued to be too difficult to handle for opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis, combining for 34 points in a 64-50 win over Northern Iowa on Friday in the championship game at Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Brunson and Bridges led the fifth-ranked Wildcats (6-0) in scoring in wins over Western Kentucky and Tennessee before facing the Panthers (5-2) for the title.
Bridges scored 18 points while making 8 of 14 shots from the field. He also tallied seven rebounds. Brunson had 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. He had four assists and two steals.
Phil Booth contributed 12 points for Villanova and Eric Paschall added 10 points and five rebounds.
Northern Iowa was led by Juwan McCloud’s 13 points. Bennett Koch has 10 points and 12 rebounds and Tywhon Pickford finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Villanova had a flawless game when it came to fouls and turnovers. The Wildcats committed only six fouls and committed three turnovers. Northern Iowa did not attempt a free throw.
A 9-2 run by Villanova opened a 44-33 lead with 12:08 left, capped by a dunk by Paschall in transition after a Northern Iowa turnover.
The Panthers had 15 turnovers compared to only two for Villanova when eight minutes remained in regulation with the Wildcats leading 49-38.
The Wildcats outscored Northern Iowa 11-2 in points off turnovers.
A 3-pointer by Spencer Haldeman cut Villanova’s lead to 51-45 with 5:33 remaining.
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The Panthers failed to cut into the lead further in consecutive possessions before Booth nailed a 3-pointer with 3:56 left, increasing the lead to 54-45.
The Wildcats pushed the lead to 59-45 as Northern Iowa went through a scoreless stretch of 3 minutes, 50 seconds, in which the Panthers missed four shots in successive possessions without grabbing an offensive rebound.
UNI finished the trip 2-1 with wins over SMU and North Carolina State and returns home to face UNLV (5-0) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Missouri Valley/Mountain West Challenge.