Villanova shoots past Kansas in national semifinal, 95-79
SAN ANTONIO – Villanova’s Final Four record 18 3-pointers were too much for Kansas to overcome as the Wildcats blew past the Jayhawks in the NCAA Championship national semifinal, 95-79, Saturday night inside the Alamodome. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham led the Jayhawks with 23 points, while redshirt-sophomore guard Malik Newman added 21 points.
Kansas’ season came to a close with a 31-8 record after making its 15th Final Four appearance. Villanova advanced to the NCAA Championship game, now with a 35-4 record, and will meet Michigan for the national title on Monday night.
It was Villanova’s night from start to finish, but the Wildcats’ opening 20 minutes were nearly flawless. It seemed as though Villanova couldn’t miss in the first half, especially from 3-point range. The three ball helped Villanova jump out to a quick 14-4 lead just over four minutes into the game, with 12 of those points coming from beyond the arc after VU connected on four of its first six tries from long range.
The 3-point barrage kept coming with Donte DiVincenzo and Collin Gillespie swishing back-to-back treys as the Villanova lead swelled to 18 points, 22-4, still with 13:06 left in the first half.
The Jayhawks managed to eventually halt the torrid VU start as freshman forward Silvio De Sousa keyed a 7-0 KU run over the next three minutes to cut the Wildcat lead to 22-11. But the threes kept coming for the Big East champions to snuff out the KU momentum. Each of Villanova’s next seven buckets were 3-pointers, with VU junior and national player of the year candidate Jalen Brunson swishing three from deep to help keep some cushion between his team and the Jayhawks.
Graham helped Kansas end the first half strong as the senior scored eight of the Jayhawks’ final 10 points of the first half. His jumper with eight seconds left got KU within 15 points, 47-32, as both squads headed to their locker rooms. The Wildcats ended the half shooting 52 percent (17-of-33) from the field, which included 13 3-pointers, the most ever in a single half by a Kansas opponent.
The intermission didn’t appear to cool the Villanova shooters. The Wildcats’ first bucket of the half was a three off the hands of Eric Paschall, which began a 7-0 VU run that pushed its lead to 20 points, 54-34, less than four minutes into the final stanza.
Graham did his best to keep the Jayhawks in the game, hitting back-to-back threes in the fifth minute of the half, but Villanova once again had an answer. DiVincenzo sank his second 3-pointer of the game before Omari Spellman swished a trey of his own less than a minute later and the Wildcats continued to coast, leading 65-44 with 13:14 left in regulation.
Despite the large deficit, the Jayhawks continued to battle. KU went on a 12-4 run to close the gap to 14 points, 71-57, after Newman connected on a jumper at the 9:22 mark. But a 7-2 Wildcat spurt again put a stop to any hopes of a KU comeback.
Both squads traded baskets over the final eight minutes of regulation, with Graham and Newman scoring 14 of the Jayhawks’ final 18 points. The KU duo put in pair of lay-ups in the final minute before Villanova ran out the clock on the game and Kansas’ season, securing the 95-79 win.
Outside of Graham’s 23 points and Newman’s 21 points, senior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was the only other Jayhawk to score in double-figures, adding 10 points, eight of which came in the second half. Sophomore center Udoka Azubuike and junior guard Lagerald Vick posted eight points apiece, while De Sousa tallied seven points to go along with seven rebounds.
Villanova ended the night with a Final Four record 18 3-pointers on 40 attempts and shot a blistering 55.4 percent (36-of-65) clip from the field. The Jayhawks hit 45.2 percent of their attempts (28-of-62) and connected on 7-of-21 3-pointers (33.3 percent).
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