Villanova tops Ole Miss to capture the 2009 PRTO championship
By Jon Cooper
The fourth annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off featured a talented eight-team field that included representatives of the ACC (Georgia Tech), Atlantic 10 (Dayton), America East (Boston University), Big East (Villanova), Big Ten (Indiana), Big 12 (Kansas State), Colonial (George Mason) and SEC (Mississippi). After 12 games that saw plenty of drama and superb skills, the Villanova Wildcats topped the Rebels of Ole Miss to come away with the championship. Here’s a rundown on each of the eight teams and their three days in Puerto Rico:
Cold shooting doomed the Terriers in their tournament opener, an 80-70 loss to Kansas State. Tyler Morris had a game-high 21 points and John Holland added 20, but BU shot only 36 percent, and, after making their first three 3-point shots, made only five of 21 from three the rest of the game. BU cut a 13-point, second-half deficit to five in the final minutes, but got no closer. The Terriers got their first win of the season in their next game, using a late 16-6 run to rally past Indiana, 71-67. Jake O’Brien had his first career double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds). Terriers overcame sub-30 percent shooting with a 52-32 edge in rebounding and a 19-3 advantage in second-chance points. In their final game, the Terriers hung with No. 21 Georgia Tech, trailing 42-40 at intermission, but went nine minutes without a field goal in the second half as Tech pulled away, winning 85-67. Holland had a game-high 23 points.
The 18th-ranked Flyers knocked off Georgia Tech, 63-59, in a tournament opener full of momentum swings. Dayton shot 42 percent from three in the first half, leading by nine at intermission. Then, after falling behind by seven with 4:37 remaining, ended the game on a decisive 13-2 run. Chris Johnson scored a game-high 19 points off the bench. In their next game, Dayton put a scare into No. 5 Villanova, cutting an 18-point, second-half deficit to two, with 2:23 remaining. But the Wildcats held on, winning 71-65. Luke Fabrizius had career-highs with 16 points, including five three-pointers, and nine rebounds, and Chris Wright added 15. In the third game, Wright had a double-double (15-10), but the Flyers fell, 83-75, to Kansas State. Dayton was out-rebounded 41-30 and outscored 38-24 in the paint, yet pulled within four (on several occasions in the final two minutes) but got no closer.
The Patriots came within 17 seconds of upsetting No. 5 Villanova in their first game, losing 69-68. George Mason led by nine at the half and by five in the final minute before a pair of late threes gave ’Nova the win. Ryan Pearson had a team-high 14 for the Patriots, who outscored Villanova 24-12 off the bench. In their next game, Mason fell behind Georgia Tech by 21 in the second half, before staging a 24-9 run, cutting Tech’s lead to six with 21 seconds left. But the Jackets sealed the game from the line, winning 70-62. Kevin Foster led GMU with 15 points and nine boards. In their final game, George Mason got late three-pointers from Cam Long and Luke Hancock to edge Indiana, 69-66. Long had a game-high 18 points, and Mike Morrison added 17 with 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots. The Patriots outscored IU 42-20 in the paint and took the lead with a late 17-7 run, holding Indiana without a field goal the final 2:57.
The Yellow Jackets suffered their first loss of the season, 63-59 to Dayton. The inside combo of freshman Derrick Favors and senior Gani Lawal led Tech back from nine down at the half, as they took a 57-50 lead with 4:37 left. But Dayton went on a decisive 11-0 run. Favors and Moe Miller each had 10 points, and Lawal had a game-high eight rebounds. In their next game, Favors and Lawal each scored a game-high 18 points, with three blocked shots, in the 70-62 win over George Mason. Lawal also had a game-high 14 rebounds. Tech held the Patriots to 23 percent shooting in opening a 27-19 halftime lead and built up a 21-point lead before withstanding a late Patriots charge. In the fifth-place game, Tech got 22 from back-up forward Zachery Peacock and another double-double from Lawal (17 points, 13 rebounds), as they dominated Boston University, 85-67. Peacock made his first nine shots, and Tech went on a 16-1 second-half run to break open a close game. They outscored BU 40-18 in the paint.
The Hoosiers were victimized by a 30-5 run in falling to Mississippi, 89-71, in their opener. Freshman Maurice Creek scored a team-high 18 and Verdell Jones added 17, but IU shot only 20 percent from three and turned the ball over 21 times. The Hoosiers trailed by double figures most of the second half. In their next game the Hoosiers faltered late, losing to Boston University, 71-67. IU led 52-45 with less than six minutes left, but BU outscored the Hoosiers 8-2 in the final three minutes, taking the lead for good with 2:19 to go. Creek again led the Hoosiers with 17 points, including 4-for-8 from three. In their final game, Indiana hit a season-high 21 free throws, but fell to George Mason, 69-66, in a game that saw 11 lead changes and no lead larger than six points. Creek led the Hoosiers, with 15, and freshman Bobby Capobianco came off the bench to pull down a team-high 10 rebounds, but IU was badly outscored in the paint, 42-20.
Kansas State continued its hot start in its opener, beating Boston University 80-70 in a wild game that saw 11 ties and eight lead changes in the first half. Freshman Rodney McGruder scored a career-high 20 points. The Wildcats led 39-35 at halftime and would not be challenged in the second half. K-State suffered its first defeat in its next game, against Mississippi, losing 86-74. Curtis Kelly led KSU with 18 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, and Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, chipped in with 17 each, but the Rebs shot 63 percent in the second half and pulled away with an early second-half 15-2 run. In KSU’s finale, Pullen went for 26 and Clemente added 21, as the ’Cats beat Dayton, 83-75. K-State built a 10-point, first-half lead, and a Clemente three capped an 8-0 run that opened up a 15-point, second-half lead. Dayton got within three but no closer. Pullen and Clemente represented Kansas State on the all-tournament team.
The Rebels made a statement in their opener, scoring a tournament-record 89 points in beating Indiana, 89-71. Ole Miss blocked 12 shots (one off the school record) and committed eight steals. Murphy Holloway had a career-high 26 points, 19 in the second half, and the Rebs used a 22-3 run to turn a 20-11 deficit into a 33-23 halftime lead. Ole Miss out-rebounded IU 46-23 and had a 28-15 advantage in second-half points. In their semifinal game, Ole Miss got 27 from Chris Warren and 25 from Terrico White to hand Kansas State an 86-74 loss. Up 32-30 at the half, the Rebels shot 63 percent in the second half and went on a decisive 19-5 run. In the championship game, Warren had 24 and White added 14 with nine boards for the Rebels, who trailed only 27-23 at halftime despite shooting below 30 percent. But No. 5 Villanova pulled away in the second half. The Rebels hurt themselves by shooting 57 percent from the foul line. Warren, who had two of the tourney’s top five scoring games, was selected for the All-Tournament team.
The Wildcats got a huge scare in their opener against George Mason, needing a three-pointer by Isaiah Armwood—his first collegiate basket—with 17 seconds left to win, 69-68. Villanova trailed by 13 in the first half and trailed 67-63 with a minute to play. But Maalik Wayns and Armwood hit threes to pull it out. Scottie Reynolds scored a game-high 18 for Villanova. The Wildcats got a different scare in their next game, nearly blowing an 18-point, second-half lead to Dayton. The Flyers closed the gap to 62-60 with 2:23 left, but ’Nova went 9-for-10 from the foul line to seal the game. Corey Fisher had a game-high 18, and was 10-for-12 from the line. In the championship game, Scottie Reynolds had a game-high 21 points, and Antonio Pena had a double-double with 17 points and 16 rebounds as the Wildcats beat Mississippi, 79-67. The 'Cats used a 15-4 second-half run to pull away. Pena and Reynolds were named to the All-Tournament team, and Pena (13.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg) was named Tournament MVP.
University of Maryland alum Jon Cooper is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.