No. 1 Kansas Falls to No. 6 Villanova in NCAA Elite Eight, 64-59

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The University of Kansas’ magical basketball season that included the program’s 12th-striaight Big 12 regular season title, a Big 12 tournament crown, and a 17-game winning streak was stopped just short of the Final Four on Saturday night as No. 2 seed and 6th-ranked Villanova upset the top-ranked Jayhawks, 64-59, at KFC Yum! Center.

“Well, obviously, we’re very disappointed and certainly feel like that we probably didn’t play our best tonight, compared to how we played over the last two months,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “Give Villanova credit. […] Certainly our kids and our seniors have done an unbelievable job putting us in position to be in the game, in the moment. I’d much rather be in the game than not in the game. Sometimes you just come up short. But it wasn’t from a lack of effort or lack of focus or lack of concentration. It was just one of those nights where things didn’t go our way.”

Kansas (33-5) was led by Devonte’ Graham’s 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range while tying his career high in rebounds (seven) in 35 minutes before fouling out in the waning moments of the game. Graham was the lone Jayhawk to earn NCAA Championship All-South Region honors.  

Junior guards Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr. each scored 16 points while playing for nearly the entire game – Mason playing all 40 minutes and Selden 38 minutes. Junior forward Landen Lucas led Kansas with 12 rebounds for his third-straight double-figure rebounding game.

Senior forward Perry Ellis finishes his KU career ranked eighth on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,798 career points and 12th on the all-time rebounding list with 835 career boards. The second-team All-American was held to four points and five rebounds on Saturday – just the third time this season he hasn’t reached double-figure points.

Despite the tough loss, Ellis showed wise perspective during the postgame press conference.

“Just knowing it’s over now, how much I’ve grown, I’ve grown so much,” Ellis said. “Just knowing that it’s over, I’m just so thankful for everybody. Teammates, coaches and everybody.”

Villanova (33-5) was held to 40 percent shooting, including a 0-for-5 finish from the field, but clinched the victory down the stretch by finishing 18-of-19 at the free throw line. A trio of Wildcats scored a team-high 13 points – Kris Jenkins, Josh Hart, and Ryan Arcidiacono.

After a back-and-forth start, Kansas went on a 7-0 run to take a 14-10 lead at the 11:39 mark of the first half. The run started when a broken-up ‘Nova play led to a fast-break opportunity in the hands of Mason, who drove all the way to the basket and kicked it out to Graham on the perimeter, who drained his first of five 3-pointers on the night to tie it, 10-10.

Freshman Carlton Bragg Jr. proved valuable in his limited playing time (six minutes) with a back-door pass from the top of the key to Lucas on the blocks for two, 14-10.  

The Wildcats and Jayhawks started even – both making seven of their first 14 shots (.500) in the first 10 minutes – but the tide began to shift as Villanova made its first 3-pointer to put the Wildcats up 17-16, a lead which would be held through halftime.

Kansas wasn’t able to string together any offensive momentum in the closing moments of the first half while being plagued by turnovers. KU turned the ball over eight times during a seven-minute scoring drought that allowed Villanova to convert on a number of easy baskets, including a pair of dunks.

The scoring drought led to a 25-16 Villanova advantage at the 4:09 mark – KU’s largest deficit since Feb. 15. Mason made a free throw to end KU’s skid, and Graham made his second 3-pointer on the next possession to breathe life back into the Jayhawks, 25-20 at the 2:52 mark. Later Mason connected with Graham for another trey after penetrating in the lane and passing it out to the open sophomore guard in the corner of the baseline, 29-25.

Ellis struggled offensively in the first half – going scoreless in a half for just the second time all season (first half against Vanderbilt and second half at Oklahoma) – but kept doing what he could to help his team’s cause, saving a ball out of bounds and relaying it to Mason for a floater in the lane, 27-22.

But Villanova countered as Jenkins snuck in a 3-pointer before the end of the first half to give a seven-point halftime deficit, 32-25 – KU’s largest halftime deficit since Jan. 12 at West Virginia (37-29).  

Kansas came out of the locker room to quickly shrink its halftime deficit by five points in the first 19 seconds of the second half. Ellis didn’t waste any more time to get on the scoreboard, making 2-of-2 free throws at the 19:46 mark after being fouled while shooting. On the ensuring in-bounds play, Mason intercepted Villanova’s pass and spun through two defenders for a quick reverse layup, 32-29.

Despite the quick second-half start, Kansas wasn’t able to regain the lead until putting together a 9-0 run with 12:54 remaining. Selden fed a doubled-teamed Ellis on the blocks and he powered through for his first field goal of the game which gave KU its first lead since the 9:41 mark of the first half, 37-36 with 13:23 remaining.

On the next possession Graham grabbed a defense rebound and took it down the court to bank in a 3-pointer, putting KU up by four and forcing a ‘Nova timeout with 12:54 remaining.

Arcidiacono broke up KU’s scoring run by making 2-of-3 free throws after being fouled while shooting beyond the arc. And near the eight-minute mark, Villanova hit back-to-back 3-pointers from Arcidiacono and Hart to take what would be the go-ahead lead. Hart’s trey gave the Wildcats a 45-50 lead with 7:54 remaining.

Kansas’ stiff defense forced a Villanova shot clock violation leading into the final media timeout with 2:58 remaining, KU down by four, 56-52.

Coming out of the timeout, Selden nailed a poised floater in the lane to bring KU within two, 56-54, with 2:16 remaining. As Kansas came through on a pair of defensive stops, it was Lucas who hauled down two big defensive rebounds on respective possessions to give KU a fighting chance.

With 43 seconds remaining and KU down by two, Graham fouled out while diving for a loose ball, giving possession to the Wildcats. Kansas was then forced to foul ‘Nova to stop the clock, sending Arcidiacono to the line, who made both free throws.

In the final 33 seconds, Villanova went 8-for-8 at the free throw line.

Mason put the Jayhawks on his back in the final moments with a coast-to-coast drive, navigating through the full-court press and gathering himself for a 3-pointer to bring KU within one with 27 seconds remaining. Mason again weaved through the ‘Nova defense for a quick layup, but it was too little, too late as Villanova’s late composure at the free throw line helped snap KU’s 17-game winning streak by a final score of 64-59.


STARTERS (Season Starts / Career Starts)
Jr. G Frank Mason III (38/77), So. G Devonte’ Graham (36/36), Jr. G Wayne Selden Jr. (37/108), Sr. F Perry Ellis (38/109), Jr. F Landen Lucas (19/33)… It is 19th time this combination has started a game (17-2 record).

The series is tied with Villanova, 3-3… The last time Kansas met Villanova in the NCAA Championship, the Jayhawks defeated the 12th-seeded Wildcats, 72-57, in the Sweet Sixteen (3/28/08) en route to winning the 2008 NCAA title.

19,422 (KFC Yum! Center)

• With the 64-59 loss to Villanova, it snapped a 17-game winning streak which was the nation’s longest active winning streak.
• The 17-game winning streak was the longest of the season and the longest since 2010-11, when Kansas opened the season 18-0.
• Kansas is now 14-7 in Elite Eight games.
• With the loss, the series with Villanova is tied 3-3.
• The Jayhawks’ loss over Villanova dropped Kansas to 100-44 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
• Kansas scored 25 points in the first half, which is the lowest the Jayhawks has scored in the first half since they scored 21 against Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals.
• Kansas shot 46 percent from the field compared to Villanova’s 40 percent. Kansas fell to 31-1 when they have a higher field goal percentage than their opponent.
• Kansas had a 4 rebounding margin (32-28) and are 26-2 in games when they outrebound their opponent.
• The 59 points scored by Kansas was the lowest output by the Jayhawks this season since they scored 63 in a loss to West Virginia on Jan. 12.
• The Jayhawks held Villanova to 64 points and suffered their first loss when holding opponents to under 69 points (13-1).
• The Jayhawks had 0 points from their bench.

• Devonte’ Graham led all scorers with 11 first-half points and finished with 17 points, marking the 25th time he has scored in double-digits this season.
• Perry Ellis scored four points, marking only the third time he has scored less than 10 points in a game.
• Perry Ellis scored a season low four points and the fewest since he scored four in the 76-69 victory over West Virginia on March 3, 2015.
• Landen Lucas led all players with 12 rebounds, marking the third straight game he had double-digit rebounds and ninth time this season.
• Frank Mason III scored 16 points, marking the 31st time scoring 10 points in a game.
• Wayne Selden Jr. scored 16 points, marking the sixth straight game with double-digit points.


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