University of Kansas

How 155 painful seconds summarized KU's loss to Villanova

KU's Udoka Azubuike on Villanova: 'They all can shoot'

Villanova broke a Final Four record for threes made in a Final Four win over Kansas on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
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Villanova broke a Final Four record for threes made in a Final Four win over Kansas on Saturday, March 31, 2018.

Udoka Azubuike couldn't help himself.

Villanova had already set a Final Four record for three-point makes with 15:17 still left in the game — but old habits die hard.

When Phil Booth drove to the lane — Kansas' Malik Newman stuck to his hip — Azubuike stayed anchored on the charge semicircle, waiting for a potential block attempt.

It was simple from there. Booth fired out to Omari Spellman in the corner, who made the wide-open three.

That was Azubuike's man.

A few seconds later, KU coach Bill Self screamed at his big man from the sideline.

"Doke!" he hollered, his palms toward the sky.

It didn't make things better for Self in KU's 95-79 loss to Villanova on Saturday night in the Final Four.

From that same spot, he had to watch as the next few possessions played out in similar ways.

Less than a minute later, Booth drove the middle. KU's Lagerald Vick was next to him, but teammate Marcus Garrett took a half-shuffle toward the rim to help.

That was enough. Quick pass to the wing. Donte DiVincenzo open for three.

"What are you doing?" Self yelled to Garrett as he crossed half-court.

A media timeout wasn't beneficial either. Next possession, when DiVincenzo started to put up a three with KU's Svi Mykhailiuk right next to him, Silvio De Sousa raised a hand more than 5 feet away, as if he were trying to feign interest.

DiVincenzo didn't shoot, though. He pulled it down and passed to Spellman, who had a full second to set up for another three when De Sousa turned his head to grab the rebound.

Self's refrain was familiar but intended for De Sousa: "What are you doing?"

"We've been playing teams that usually the guards can shoot, but not the big men. That was just a lot different," De Sousa said later in the locker room. "It's hard to guard a team where everybody can shoot."

Self would see that again on the next possession. DiVincenzo faked a drive in transition with Mykhailiuk in good defensive position, but De Sousa went back to instincts, falling behind his teammate to protect the rim.

Quick pass to Spellman. Late closeout by De Sousa. And after a pump-fake, Spellman had an open lane before De Sousa fouled him.

Self looked to the bench, pulling his thumb toward his body.

Azubuike knew what that meant. He checked in for De Sousa.

"If you help, somebody's going to be open," De Sousa said. "Today, as much as we tried, we just couldn't match up with them."

Azubuike coming in didn't provide the defensive answer either.

On the ensuing possession, Spellman received a pass before facing up Azubuike on the baseline, putting in an 18-footer over the top of him.

It became too painful for Self the next time down.

Villanova's Collin Gillespie drove baseline on Vick. And starting nearing the elbow, Azubuike took two steps back, his feet once again resting on the charge semicircle.

Everyone knew what was next. Quick pass to wing. Spellman open for three.

Self couldn't take it. He turned his back on the play, flailing his hand in the air in frustration.

There was 12:42 left on the clock. The shot missed, but that wasn't the point.

Self knew, just like everyone watching.

This was how Villanova had beaten KU.

KU's Mitch Lightfoot knows that Villanova made plenty of threes, but Lightfoot added that Kansas needed to have done a better job defensively on threes in 95-79 Final Four loss on March 31, 2018.

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