PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Ryan Arcidiacono had not made a shot all night. So naturally, he was Jay Wright’s choice on the play that wound up deciding Villanova’s fate.
And it was the right choice.
Arcidiacono’s 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds left put Villanova on top for good, and the Wildcats upset No. 2 Kansas 63-59 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday night.
“We had a choice who we were going to run that for,” said Wright, the Villanova coach who’s now 4-1 in last five games against teams ranked in the top five. “And we picked Ryan. I don’t think there’s a guy on our team who would doubt that. ... Everybody just knows he lives for that. When we practice end of the game situations in practice, he always makes the shot.”
Sure enough, he delivered. Arcidiacono had missed all five of his previous shots, but made the one that counted — the only field goal for the Wildcats in the final 7 minutes.
“I thought I was wide open, so I just pulled the trigger,” Arcidiacono said.
Arcidiacono got it off in plenty of time, even as Kansas’ Perry Ellis — listed as 5 inches taller — charged his way.
“Almost,” Ellis said.
Darrun Hilliard and Dylan Ennis each scored 14 for Villanova (6-0), which meets Iowa in Saturday night’s championship game. JayVaughn Pinkston scored 13 and James Bell added 10 for the Wildcats.
Frank Mason scored 12 for Kansas (5-1). His three-point play with 34.2 seconds left gave Kansas its first lead in more than 25 minutes, but the Jayhawks couldn’t hold on in the final moments.
“It was not a pretty game,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Certainly, I hate that it came down to one possession like that.”
Ellis scored 11, while Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid added 10 each for Kansas, which plays Texas-El Paso in the third-place game Saturday.
Villanova led 57-46 with just over seven minutes left, then got outscored 13-1 to lose the lead — and then found a way at the end to cap a wild night where one team would go on a run, then the other would follow.
It held true to the end, with the Wildcats having the last run.
Pinkston’s layup made it 36-26 early in the second half, before Kansas ran off eight unanswered points in a flash — four of them by Ellis — to get within two.
Villanova was undeterred.
The Wildcats answered with a 12-2 run, capped by Ennis’ 3-pointer with 12:44 remaining to give Villanova what was its biggest lead, 48-36. The margin was still 11 with 7:19 left, but the Jayhawks just kept coming. And after Villanova went more than 4 minutes without scoring, Kansas was back within 57-54 with plenty of time left.
Mason’s layin off a lob cut Villanova’s lead to one, and the converted ballroom serving as an arena this weekend was simply rocking. Kansas fans had filled the building, and they weren’t quiet.
That is, until Arcidiacono rendered them silent and gave Villanova a huge early win.
“He seemed like a tough kid to me,” Self said. “Usually, in a game like this, the tough guy is the one making plays. It didn’t surprise me at all that he’s the one who took the shot.”
For the first 6½ minutes, Villanova made nothing. Literally, outside of a couple free throws, nothing.
It was 11-2 Kansas out of the gate, and Villanova was looking wholly overmatched in the early going. The Wildcats missed their first seven shots, not getting anything from the field to drop until Hilliard hit a 3-pointer with 13:14 remaining.
Just like that, everything changed.
Villanova scored 27 of the next 35 points over a stunning 12½-minute stretch, turning that 11-2 deficit into a 29-19 lead, the last point coming when Arcidiacono made one of two free throws awarded after Self was protesting a bit too much with one of the referees during a time-out. The shot by Arcidiacono capped a 12-0 burst by the Wildcats.
It was his only point until the 3-pointer in the final moments.
Kansas went into the locker room down only 29-22. It could have been so much worse — after holding Villanova without a field goal for nearly seven minutes to start the game, the Jayhawks went the last eight minutes of the half without one of their own, going 0 for 7 from the floor with five turnovers during that dismal stretch.
Combined, the teams were 14 for 53 in the opening 20 minutes. Villanova shot 29 percent, Kansas 24 percent, but the Wildcats held a 28-15 rebounding edge in the half.
“We’re a long ways to go,” Self said. “I love our talent, I love our players and all that stuff. But the thing is, there’s a difference between trying hard and actually competing. And we have to learn how to compete. And it’s not going to happen overnight.”