🏀 Jayhawks Advance to National Championship Game With Win Over Villanova
NEW ORLEANS – The Kansas Jayhawks advanced to their 10th National Championship game in program history Saturday night with a convincing 81-65 win over Villanova at the Caesars Superdome.
The No. 1 seeded Jayhawks never trailed in Saturday’s National Semifinal, leading for all but the first 19 seconds of the game. David McCormack led Kansas with a season-high 25 points and nine rebounds, while Ochai Agbaji scored 21 points. Kansas improved to 33-6 on the season, while Villanova finished its season with a 30-8 record.
The Jayhawks will now look to win their fourth NCAA Tournament championship on Monday night against North Carolina. The Tar Heels topped Duke in the other National Semifinal on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:20 a.m., CT on TBS. Monday’s game will mark the program’s third National Championship game appearance under Coach Bill Self.
Kansas started the game on fire, opening up on a 10-0 run to jump out in front from the start. Agbaji hit a pair of 3-pointers in the run, while McCormack contributed two buckets in the paint. Villanova got on the board more than three minutes into the game when Brandon Slater scored the Wildcats’ first basket of the game.
Agbaji, who hit both of his 3-pointers in the team’s Elite 8 win over Miami, hit his first six attempts from deep in Saturday’s National Semifinal, giving him eight straight 3-pointers over two games. By the second media timeout at the 11:33 mark, Agbaji was outscoring Villanova 12-8 on his own.
Villanova started 3-for-10 from the floor with five turnovers thanks to stingy defense from the Jayhawks.
The Jayhawks continued to stretch their lead over the final 10 minutes of the second half, leading by as many as 19 at one point. Leading 36-19 with just under five minutes to play, Jalen Wilson converted a second-chance layup to make it 38-19, giving Kansas its largest lead of the night.
However, Villanova finished the first half on a run and got the lead down to nine with 1:23 left when Collin Gillespie hit a 3-pointer to make it 38-29. However, the Jayhawks stretched their lead back to double digits before the half, thanks to a bucket from Mitch Lightfoot to make it 40-29 at half.
In the second half, Kansas pushed its lead to 16 just more than three minutes into the half when Dajuan Harris Jr., canned a 3-pointer to make it 50-34. But like the first half, Villanova wouldn’t go away. The Wildcats went on an 8-0 run to close it to eight at 50-42 with 14:10 to play.
The Kansas lead stayed in that range until about the six-minute mark when Villanova’s Jermaine Samuels converted an and-one to make it a six-point game with 6:10 to play.
However, that was as close as Villanova would get the rest of the way. McCormack hit a turnaround jumper in the lane to push it to eight, before Christian Braun scored a bucket to push it to 10. After a free throw from Samuels, Braun hit a 3-pointer to push it to 12 at 71-59 with four minutes to play.
After an Agbaji free throw, Braun hit another 3-pointer to make it 75-69 with 2:48 to go, which put the icing on the cake for the Jayhawks.
Wilson picked up his seventh double-double of the season and third of the NCAA Tournament with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He has double-digit rebounds in four-straight games. Braun finished with 10 points and five assists. Kansas improved to 25-0 this season when holding its opponent to less than 70 points.