Kansas shoots lights out, handles Villanova 81-65 on the way to the national title game
Three-point shooting propels Kansas past Villanova in the Final Four
It's hard to shoot over 50 percent from 3 and lose in the Final Four — just ask Kansas. The Jayhawks' 54.2 percent clip from deep on 13 3-pointers was too much for Villanova, as KU cruised past the Wildcats 81-65.
The key to Kansas's dominance from beyond the arc didn't just come out of know where. The team's inside-out game was pretty much unstoppable, working through big man David McCormack from start to finish. McCormack led the Jayhawks with 25 points and nine rebounds.
With McCormack dominating inside, fellow Kansas star and Naismith finalist Ochai Agbaji was nearly perfect from 3, shooting 6-7 from deep. Kansas also got help from Jalen Wilson, who scored 11, Christian Braun with 10 and DaJuan Harris Jr. who both scored nine.
"I think that how well we shoot it, in large part, probably depends on Ochai in many ways, because he's going to take the majority of the 3s," head coach Bill Self told reporters after the game. "And the start he got us off on, I think he just gave everybody else confidence."
We told you all…— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) April 3, 2022
We didn’t come this far, to only get this far.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BOUND! #RockChalk pic.twitter.com/JOHrlkdQ26
Villanova did not go silently into the night, though. The Wildcats cut Kansas's lead to six late in the second half with some 3-point shooting help of their own. In fact, the two teams combined for 26 3-pointers — the most ever in a Final Four game, breaking their own record in 2018 when the two faced off. That time Villanova got the better of Kansas.
Next up for the Jayhawks is the North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC took down Duke in the second leg of Saturday's Final Four, 81-77, ending Coach Mike Krzyzewski's career. You can watch the title game on Monday night at 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS or stream it live on NCAA.com.
Kansas extends lead to 12, with under 4 minutes to play
A massive 3-pointer from Christian Braun pushed Kansas's lead to 12 with the final stretch of basketball coming into the fold. Three-point buckets have been the name of the game for the Jayhawks the entire game. They are now shooting 54.5 percent from deep.
KANSAS CAN'T MISS 😳— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 2, 2022
Watch the finish here: https://t.co/kmOO6qbBI2 pic.twitter.com/fq13WBIg6R
👀 Villanova not going away, cuts Kansas's lead to 9
Villanova has slimmed Kansas's lead to nine, trailing 64-55. Limiting the offensive potency of the combination of David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji will be key for the Wildcats in these final eight minutes of the second half. The two stars combine for 39 of the Jayhawks' 64 points.
The Wildcats have three players scoring in double-digits — Collin Gillespie has 17 with Brandon Slater and Caleb Daniels each clocking in 13. Slater has given 'Nova life behind the arch as of late, hitting two three-pointers.
Kansas, Villanova going bucket-for-bucket, Jayhawks up 62-50
It has been a score fest in the second half of the first matchup in the Final Four. Just when Villanova cut the lead into single-digits, Kansas had a response of its own.
DAVID MCCORMACK THROWS DOWN THE HAMMER! 🔥😱@KUHoops #MFinalFour pic.twitter.com/XkwDGolZG4— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) April 2, 2022
Some highlights from the past five minutes:
- Ochai Agbaji is now 6-6 from behind the arc.
- Villanova is still answer-less to MacCormack's dominance inside. 19 points with five boards
- Colling Gillespie is putting it all on the floor to keep 'Nova in it, leading the Wildcats with 17 points.
Kansas continues to shoot the lights out from three, leads 50-36
Kansas's 14-point lead has come at the hands of some pure inside-out play. If it isn't David McCormack scoring inside, it is one of the Jayhawks' shooters knocking down three-point shots — mainly Ochai Agbaji, who is still shooting at a 100% clip from deep, making five of his five attempted three-point shots.
On the Villanova side, captain Collin Gillespie is trying to keep the Wildcats in it. He is 4-6 from deep with 14 points of his own.
Halftime: Sidelined McCormack allows Villanova to see some light
Kansas enters halftime with an 11-point lead over Villanova after leading the Wildcats by as much as 19 points earlier in the first half. Kansas' big man David McCormack was a terror on the inside, racking up 13 points, exploiting 'Nova's smaller-sized lineup. Naismith finalist Ochai Agbaji follows McCormack with 12 points of his own after nailing four 3-pointers in the first half.
Outside of Kansas's dominance on the inside, the Jayhawks are also finding success by spreading the floor as well. They are shooting 50 percent from beyond the 3-point line, while Villanova is sporting a 33 percent clip from deep.
Working in NOLA 💪 pic.twitter.com/BeQmcdUYmx— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) April 2, 2022
Villanova was able to gain some momentum in the last five minutes of the first half, going on a 10-2 run, after McCormack was benched after recording his second foul of the game. The Wildcats are led by their captain Collin Gillespie with 11 points, plus eight points from Caleb Daniels.
Kansas takes double-digit lead on the back of McCormack's dominance inside
Villanova has no answer for David McCormack. When he isn't scoring inside he is creating space on the perimeter for Kansas's shooters. Kansas is shooting 70 percent from deep. McCormack leads Kansas with 13 points as the Jayhawks ride a 36-18 lead over the Wildcats.
On 'Nova's offensive end, Caleb Daniels seems to be filling in nicely for the injured Justin Moore. He leads the Wildcats with eight points, followed by Jalen Samuels and Collin Gillespie who have three each.
Agbaji stays hot from deep. Kansas extends lead to 11
Thanks to two more three-pointers from Ochai Agbaji, Kansas now leads Villanova 19-8. Agbaji is now 4/4 from three-point land. Big man David McCormack has Kansas' seven other points.
Villanova has now racked up five turnovers on the night.
Suffocating defense, hot start for Agbaji propels Kansas to an early lead
At the first break of the first half, Kansas leads Villanova 10-2 thanks to a hot start from Naismith finalist Ochai Agbaji and some stifling defense.
Agbaji sunk two three-pointers to jumpstart Kansas's offense. Meanwhile, on the defensive end, the Jayhawks have already forced Villanova to turn the ball over four times. Forward Brandon Slater has the lone bucket for the Wildcats.
How Villanova and Kansas got here
Winning four straight games is a requirement to reach any Final Four, but winning nine straight? Well, that might be reason enough to favor one team over another, but fortunately for Villanova and Kansas fans both of these respective squads are on a nine-game tear.
For the Jayhawks, their path included winning the Big 12 tournament beating West Virginia, TCU and Texas Tech and then victories against Texas Southern, Creighton, Providence and Miami (Fla.) in the Big Dance. KU beat its opponents by an average of 13 points.
All eyes will be on Naismith finalist Ochai Agbaji for Jayhawks fans tonight, as the star forward has led Kansas in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game — although he has yet to eclipse that average so far in the NCAA tournament, topping out at 18 against Miami (Fla.).
Arizona State transfer Remy Martin has come alive for Kansas during this stretch of four games though, taking over the scoring lead, clocking in just under 17 points per game.
The Wildcats won the Big East tournament taking down St. John's, UConn and then Creighton on their way to the NCAA tournament. 'Nova then tore through competition in the South region with their discipline taking care of the ball and on the free-throw line taking down Delaware, Ohio State, Michigan and Houston to make it to the Final Four. The Wildcats have the highest free throw percentage in the NCAA, shooting at a clip of 83 percent.
Although veteran leadership has brought Villanova this far, the Big East champs will be without one of its staples — Justin Moore, who tore his Achilles against Houston. Moore's teammates are ready to step up though, with Caleb Daniels, Chris Arcidiacano and Bryan Antoine expected to gain more playing time.
In a press conference between Saturday's Final Four, Moore was stoic yet encouraged that Daniels, Arcidiacano and Antoine would step up in his place.
"Of course they have to step up, but the whole team has to step up. All year long, we know how capable they are, in practice we see how much they are getting better." Moore told reporters. "They're ready for it."
All of the 2022 men's Final Four games and the men's national title game will be televised live on TBS with simulcasts on TNT and truTV.
No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Villanova play at 6:09 p.m. ET on TBS. Watch the Final Four livestream here on March Madness Live.
Below are the starting lineups for each team:
|DaJuan Harris Jr.||Guard||6'1"|
The one thing the Wildcats will do without Justin Moore — play Villanova basketball
On the stat sheet, it's obvious that Villanova's roster took a hit when news broke that Justin Moore would miss the Final Four with a torn Achilles. With Saturday being their third Final Four in six years, Jay Wright and Villanova are not concerned though; they are ready to play Kansas.
"We had another good practice today. I feel like we're in a good place with replacing Justin," Jay Wright said to lead off his press conference on Friday.
Moore averaged 14.8 points for the Wildcats throughout the season — second overall for the team behind team captain Collin Gillespie. Even with the prospect of missing an injured star when the Wildcats take on a surging Kansas Jayhawks team, spirits are still high.
When asked about the team's confidence, Wright leaned on his fifth-year captain to reassure him that the troops are here and ready to win.
"So I just called Collin Gillespie and said, do I need to talk to these guys about being ready, believing we can do this without Justin. He's like, 'no, way. Everybody is good. Don't worry about it,'" Wright told reporters.
Although Villanova will be missing Moore's confidence off the court, his presence has already been felt through the team in New Orleans.
"It means everything for us to have him around and be in touch with him and cut it [up] with him. We miss having him on the court," Eric Dixon told reporters on Thursday. "It's bigger than him as a basketball player, that's our friend, our brother. So it's good to have him around."
Gillespie shared the same sentiment when asked about the injured guard's presence in New Orleans, emphasizing Moore's ability to always encourage the next man up.
One of those players that will need to help fill the gap is Chris Arcidiacono — brother of 2016 Villanova guard and national champion Ryan Arcidiacono. Chris had his best game of the season when Moore was out vs. UConn in early February, scoring nine points in 26 minutes of play.
"Really nothing changes," Arcidiacono said about his role with Moore out. "My role is I come off the bench, bring energy and just make sure we're playing Villanova basketball for 40 minutes."
Kansas players remember cancellation of 2020 season when Jayhawks were No. 1
Kansas sixth-year senior guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, now playing for the fourth school of his college career after stops at Illinois, DePaul and Iowa State, knows exactly where he was when he learned the 2020 college basketball season was quickly coming to an end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "I was actually playing," he said.
DePaul, the Big East tournament's No. 10 seed that season, was putting the finishing touches on a 71-67 win over No. 7 seed Xavier inside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, March 11, when word trickled down from the crowd to the court what was likely coming next.
"If I'm not mistaken, we might have been the last (game of the season)," Coleman-Lands said. "We were playing Xavier (in the Big East tournament) and we won. We finished the game and while we were playing, we heard the NBA was pretty much stopping. In the midst, we kept hearing more people stopping. It like was a few seconds left, probably a little less than a minute, and people were like, 'Yeah, they're stopping.' There was even talk about potentially having some of the fans evacuate and leave right then and there, but they enforced us finishing the game and then from that point on, we started seeing on TV, canceled and canceled.
"So yeah, I remember, like playing, expecting to play our next game and we were supposed to play Villanova next and just being kind of in a powerless position."
On Saturday, Coleman-Lands will finally, coincidentally, have the chance to play Villanova in the postseason. While the end to Coleman-Lands' last season at DePaul was jarring because of where he was and what he was doing — to learn he and his teammates would no longer being playing basketball again that season while literally playing basketball — the cancellation was abrupt for his now-Kansas teammates because of who they were: the No. 1 team in the land.
The Jayhawks, 28-3, had won 16 games in a row. They were No. 1 in the AP poll. They were No. 1 on kenpom.com, with breathing room, too. The gap from No. 1 Kansas to No. 2 Gonzaga on the popular predictive metrics site was larger than the gap between Gonzaga and No. 7 Michigan State. Those Jayhawks were arguably the second-best team of Kansas coach Bill Self's tenure, behind only his 2008 national championship squad that went 37-3.
"I know exactly where I was," McCormack, a senior forward, said Friday of the moment he learned the season was canceled. "I was actually in the room, had on my uniform, just finished getting taped, and we're sitting in the room and we found out it was like, 'Oh, maybe there's not going to be fans,' 'maybe we're not going to go,' and then we just hit, 'the tournament's canceled.'
"We didn't know what to do. We ended up just taking pictures downstairs in uniforms and I'll never forget that."
"So, the saddest picture day ever?" a reporter asked.
"Saddest picture day ever," McCormack affirmed. "Mind you, I smiled because Mitch (Lightfoot) was in the background but yeah, it was the saddest picture day ever. I mean, we didn't know what else to do. We at least want to remember this moment, we felt like we were on top of the world. I think we were No. 1 across all polls. We were just like, 'We want to remember this moment for what it's worth' and those are my brothers at the moment."
The top two scorers from that Kansas team — Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike — are off in the professional ranks, while newcomers such as transfers Remy Martin, Joseph Yesufu and Coleman-Lands have since joined the Jayhawks' 2020 holdovers. But the latter group has heard the stories from their teammates about just how good that team was and what its players believed they could accomplish.
"They felt like nobody could beat them," Coleman-Lands said of Kansas' 2020 team, which featured his current teammates McCormack, Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun and Mitch Lightfoot, the latter of whom redshirted that season. "To have that energy flowing in the locker room, I mean, that's kind of what we have. It's like that sense of urgency and just knowing what we're capable of when we're playing our best. We feel like we can beat anyone."
"They were all upset," said Yesufu, a transfer from Drake, who was in class when he learned via text that the 2020 NCAA Tournament had been canceled. "I could say for myself that they were definitely going to win (the NCAA tournament). They were at a high. They were not losing. They were all gelling well, so I feel like that was definitely their year to win it."
Villanova's Jay Wright: 'Not that much tactically that we have to change' on the loss of star guard Justin Moore
On the latest episode of March Madness 365, Villanova's head coach Jay Wright sat down with Andy Katz to discuss the Wildcats' looming Final Four matchup with Kansas, and how they're going to adjust to the loss of guard Justin Moore.
"I think we had a good weekend this week," Wright told Katz. "So, it's not that much tactically that we have to change."
Wright plans to boost the playing time of Chris Arcidiacano and Bryan Antoine in place of Moore who tore his Achilles in Villanova's Elite Eight victory over Houston.
Moore's teammates are giving him the support he needs during this time, according to Wright, as he remains a big part of 'Nova's culture off the court.
"It was strange after the game against Houston," Wright said. "We didn't really celebrate like you normally do because there was a pain in our heart, you know, we just all felt for Justin. As the week goes on we're getting better and better with it, as he is. But, he's such a big personality on our team."
You can listen to the full interview on the latest episode of March Madness 365 below.
Kansas's Bill Self: 'I still feel like we still got our best still in us.'
Head coach Bill Self thinks this Kansas team still has its best games ahead of them. The Jayhawks made their way to the Final Four by knocking off No. 16 Texas Southern, No. 9 Creighton, No. 4 Providence and No. 10 Miami (Fla.).
"I still feel like this team has another gear that they can get to. Now, Villanova doesn't like letting anybody play to that gear," Self told Andy Katz on the latest episode of March Madness 365. "I still feel like we still got our best still in us."
Kansas fans may have had a preview of what that gear looks like in the second half against Miami (Fla.) in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks climbed back from six down at halftime to outscore the Hurricanes 47-15 in the second frame, winning the game 76-50.
You can listen to the full interview on the latest episode of March Madness 365 below.
Kansas vs. Villanova all-time matchup history
Kansas and Villanova tip-off for the seventh time all-time on Saturday night. The two first matched up all the way back in 1968 when Kansas won 55-49. Villanova currently leads the all-time series with a record of 5-4.
The last time these two squads faced off was on December 21, 2019, when 'Nova outlasted KU 56-55. In recent NCAA tournament history, Villanova has also gotten the better of the Jayhawks winning the past two matchups in the Big Dance, 95-79 in 2018 and 64-59 in 2016 — both on the way to the Wildcats winning the national championship. Below is the all-time series history:
|Dec. 21, 2019||Villanova||Kansas||56-55|
|Dec. 18, 2018||Kansas||Villanova||74-71|
|March 31, 2018||Villanova||Kansas||95-79|
|March 26, 2016||Villanova||Kansas||64-59|
|Nov. 29, 2013||Villanova||Kansas||63-59|
|March 28, 2008||Kansas||Villanova||72-57|
|Jan. 22, 2005||Villanova||Kansas||83-62|
|Jan. 2, 2004||Kansas||Villanova||86-79|
|March 18, 1968||Kansas||Villanova||55-49|