The Crimson Tide won its sixth straight game to improve to 10-3 in its non-conference slate. The loss dropped Villanova to 6-4. Alabama reached the championship game of all three of their in-season tournaments this season.
"It was a total team effort for us today," said UA head coach Rick Moody, who moved to within five victories of becoming the all-time winningest basketball coach at Alabama. "It says a great deal for this team to be able to beat a strong team like Villanova in the championship game of their tournament. We had to play solid on both ends of the floor in order to get this win. I think our depth and playing rotations are pretty well set as we look to start conference play."
Alabama got rolling early as the Tide jumped out to a 15-4 lead through the first 10 minutes of play. The Crimson Tide defense proved stingy as Villanova made just two field goals over the opening 15 minutes of action and finished the half with only six baskets from the floor.
Villanova stayed in the game thanks to a bundle of free throw attempts. The Wildcats hit 14 of 19 tries in the opening stanza. Alabama held a double-digit margin through much of the period but a late scoring drought of nearly four minutes proved costly as ‘Nova finally made some shots to trim Bama's lead to just four, 28-24, with 3:32 left.
The Tide answered with six straight points to regain the momentum but a three-pointer at the buzzer by VU's Kelly Nash sent the teams into the half with Bama holding a 37-30 lead.
Bama extended its lead early in the second half, but ‘Nova began to make some shots and battled back to within six points, 49-43, with 12:39 remaining. From that point, Alabama used a 10-0 run that included keeping the Wildcats scoreless for the next six minutes to take a comfortable lead that they would never relinquish.
UA maintained a double-figure lead over the closing minutes before a couple of late long range shots by Villanova trimmed the final margin to just nine at 70-61.
Tournament MVP LaNisha Cartwell led the Crimson Tide with 14 points and eight rebounds. Beth Vice, an all-tournament selection, also finished with 14 points while Shondra Johnson hauled down eight boards and handed out a team-best six assists. UA shot over 50 percent (51.1) from the field including an impressive 71.4 percent (5 of 7) from the three-point line. Bama also won the battle of the boards (38-31) and for the second straight game had more assists (14) then turnovers (10).
Kelly Nash led Villanova with a career-high 20 points including six three pointers with Courtney Mix chipping in 14 points in the loss.
Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa to begin preparation for the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule. The Tide host Kentucky next Sunday at 2 p.m. in the SEC opener for both squads.