Svi Mykhailiuk on Villanova shooting down KU: 'They got hot'
You know it’s a bad night for the losing team when the winning coach issues a note of sympathy, as Villanova’s Jay Wright felt compelled to do.
“Well, that was just one of those nights,” Wright said. “Man, we made every shot to start the game. I feel bad for Kansas. They’re a great team. We just made every shot.”
Not every shot. But more than enough to carry the Wildcats to an easy 95-79 victory and into Monday night’s national championship game against Michigan.
The Wildcats made 18 three-pointers in 40 attempts, setting a Final Four record for made triples and matching the most three-pointers made against Kansas in any game.
The early moments set the game’s tone. After Udoka Azubuike's bucket on the game’s first possession, Villanova was off and running.
Eric Paschall buried a three-pointer. On the next possession, Mikal Bridges hit a three, and one possession later, it was Omari Spellman. Less than three minutes into the game, the Wildcats had a 9-2 lead, and Kansas Coach Bill Self called a timeout.
“I thought we were OK,” Self said. “But we needed a couple of good possessions fast.”
That didn’t happen. The Villanova shooting tsunami continued, and the lead soared to 22-4.
“It’s like, 'Oh, my gosh, we’re seven minutes in and we’re going to have to play just about perfect to get back.'”
But Villanova never let up. By halftime, the Wildcats led 47-32, and their 13 three-pointers had tied those of UNLV in 1987 and Duke in 2010 for three-pointers in a Final Four game.
“They did a great job knocking down shots, obviously, and they were making the extra pass,” said Kansas guard Devonte Graham, who finished with 24 points. “They had us rotating a lot.”
Kansas threw out a 2-3 zone early in the first half and had some success with it. But the Jayhawks couldn’t close the gap.
Perhaps the law of averages would catch up with the Wildcats and they would cool off in the second half.
Villanova ended that notion early when, after a solid KU defensive possession that included an Azubuike blocked shot, Paschall wound up with the ball about 28 feet from the basket and swished a three-point as the shot clock expired.
Another problem for the Jayhawks: They couldn’t pick out a shooter to concentrate their defense on. Seven different Villanova players tossed in triples in the first half. By the break, each starter had made at least two three-pointers, and by the game’s end, six different Villanova players had at least two triples.
“Obviously we’re very talented offensively,” Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson said.
Still, although the Wildcats were favored by five points, there was reason to believe Kansas could stand in with the Big East champion. Villanova had gone 4 for 24 on three-pointers in the East Region final against Texas Tech.
In the region semifinal, the Wildcats trailed West Virginia by six with 11 minutes remaining. The play of Big 12 opponents should have been encouraging.
But this was a walloping from the outset. Villanova had attempted 18 three-pointers before the Jayhawks tried their first.
As the final minutes ticked away, NCAA Tournament and Kansas record books were getting a thorough flipping.
With Kansas’ seven three-pointers, the teams combined for 25, three more than the Final Four record set by Arkansas and North Carolina in 1995.
When Villanova made its seventh shot from distance, it set an NCAA record for most three-pointers in a season, which stands at 454.
When the Wildcats play and shoot like this, Self said, he can’t remember a better team.
“I thought they were great,” Self said. “That’s as good a team that we’ve played against that I can remember. They’d be hard for anybody to deal with if they shoot the ball like that.”