University of Kansas

Villanova beats Kansas 64-59, ends Jayhawks’ season one win shy of Final Four

Reasons for Kansas' Elite Eight loss to Villanova

The Star's Sam Mellinger, Blair Kerkhoff, Jesse Newell and Vahe Gregorian discuss the Kansas Jayhawks' 64-59 loss to the Villanova Wildcats in the NCAA South Regional final Saturday night in Louisville, Ky.
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The Star's Sam Mellinger, Blair Kerkhoff, Jesse Newell and Vahe Gregorian discuss the Kansas Jayhawks' 64-59 loss to the Villanova Wildcats in the NCAA South Regional final Saturday night in Louisville, Ky.

Sitting in Section 115, Row E, Seat 6, Dewanna King held her iPhone in both hands as Villanova’s players snipped the last pieces of net in the distance.

Second-seeded Villanova had just knocked out top-seeded Kansas 64-59 in the Elite Eight on Saturday at the KFC Yum Center, and King wanted to make sure her son, Devonte’ Graham, knew she was thinking about him.

At 11:13 p.m., she sent the text saying he had played his backside off. He had nothing to hang his head about, King said, even though she knew he wanted this for the team.

King knew still that the message would be hard to accept.

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“As soon as he fouled out, he felt like it was his fault,” said King, who drove 8 1/2 hours from Raleigh, N.C., to Louisville after getting good news on Selection Sunday that KU would be playing its regional closer than Chicago. “So of course, he felt like, ‘I fouled out, and I couldn’t save the day.’ ”

The disqualification — and the headlong dive with 34 seconds left where Graham picked up his final whistle on a loose ball — will be the play talked about most following the Jayhawks’ season-ending loss.

When it happened, King said she knew her son’s night was over. The officials convened, and she hoped against hope that they would overturn the call.

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They didn’t. With KU trailing late, it would have to go without one of its top players.

Graham has a habit of never looking up to his mom in the stands, so King shouted as loud as she could. “Keep your head up! Keep your head up!”

Once he dropped his head on the bench and started wiping his face, though, King knew what was happening.

“He hates to lose,” King said. “He’ll cry in a minute.”

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The fifth foul was costly. With the Jayhawks needing a three-pointer to tie it in the final seconds, guard Frank Mason had a miscommunication with Svi Mykhailiuk, who entered as Graham’s replacement.

Turnover KU. Steal for Villanova’s Mikal Bridges. Season over for the Jayhawks.

“Coach just told us to do a pitchback play, and I didn’t execute that well,” Mason said. “I picked my dribble up, was expecting Svi to come for a handoff, but he came up, faked and went backdoor.”

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Mykhailiuk added: “He didn’t have a dribble, so I was just trying to get the ball. I bumped back, and he just couldn’t pass me the ball.”

KU trailed 32-25 at halftime after struggling with nearly every part of its offense. That included forward Perry Ellis, who had no first-half points on 0-for-2 shooting with four turnovers.

Still, like it did in the previous game against Maryland, KU hung in with defense, keeping the deficit manageable despite 10 first-half giveaways and a 6:55 scoring drought.

The second-half comeback had Bill Self elements to it.

There was a halftime adjustment — KU switching to a full-court press to surprise Villanova — with Mason leaping for a steal and following with a layup on the Wildcats’ first second-half possession.

KU also schemed its way to three easy baskets on out-of-bounds plays, one on a lob to Wayne Selden and the other two on backdoor cuts when Landen Lucas dropped passes to Selden for layups.

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The Jayhawks also were getting lucky plays, too. At the 12:52 mark of the second half, just after KU had regained the lead, Graham put up a shot from the right wing that banked in off the glass, forcing a Villanova timeout. Graham didn’t hesitate, exhibiting a shrug reminiscent of the famous one Michael Jordan had against the Portland Trailblazers in the 1992 NBA Finals.

Two minutes later, fortune again smiled on KU. Selden was fouled on a shot, and the ball — spinning awkwardly — hit the top of the backboard before caroming down and throughthe net. Selden made the free throw to complete the three-point play.

Villanova’s answer was swift, though, coming in the form of a 10-0 run punctuated by three-pointers from Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart.

After scoring just four points in KU's season-ending loss, senior Perry Ellis and teammate Wayne Selden talked about Ellis' career.

“We didn’t really execute as well,” Mason said. “They just made some tough shots. Just give credit to them.”

For the first time all tournament, KU couldn’t solve a defensive puzzle. Villanova’s pressure bothered the Jayhawks, and most shots were rushed, uncomfortable or both.

“They’re a versatile team defensively,” Selden said. “They really switch their defenses a lot. Never really let us get in a groove.”

KU kept clawing back. A Selden floater trimmed the lead to two points with 2:15 left. With KU trailing by four and desperate, Mason hit a step-back three to give the team life.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham led his team with 17 points but had to sit out the final seconds after fouling out when he lost the ball but appeared to get it back.

Villanova, 33-5, made 8 of 8 free throws in the final 33 seconds, though, and KU’s final chance was thwarted by the Mason turnover.

It was the final game for Ellis and fellow senior Jamari Traylor. Ellis finished with a season-low four points on 1-for-5 accuracy.

“I feel like they did a great job of just trying to swarm me at times,” Ellis said, “and just somebody was always there.”

The loss ended a season in which KU, 33-5, had previously accomplished nearly all it had set out to do. That started in the summer with the Jayhawks winning eight in a row and taking the gold medal at the World University Games international competition in Gwangju, South Korea.

After starting 5-3 in the Big 12, KU finished with 10 straight league wins and won the competitive conference by two games. The Jayhawks, who were ranked No. 4 in The Associated Press preseason poll, received the overall No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA Tournament.

This season’s tourney run through Austin Peay, Connecticut and Maryland had its share of high moments, but in the end, the Jayhawks fell short of the ultimate destination: a Final Four berth in Houston.

“All in all, we still had a good year,” Traylor said, his jersey laid out perfectly at his feet after being removed for the final time. “But we just came up short.”

VILLANOVA 64, KANSAS 59

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

Villanova

Min

FG-A

FT-A

O-R

A

PF

PT

Jenkins

28

3-10

6-6

0-4

3

4

13

Ochefu

29

5-8

0-0

1-8

2

3

10

Brunson

22

2-6

2-2

0-1

0

1

7

Hart

38

6-17

0-0

1-4

0

3

13

Arcidiacono

33

3-6

6-7

0-3

1

3

13

Bridges

26

2-4

2-2

1-3

1

2

6

Booth

12

0-1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Reynolds

12

0-0

2-2

2-4

0

0

2

TEAM

   

0-1

   

Totals

200

21-52

18-19

5-28

7

16

64

Percentages: FG .404, FT .947. Three-Point Goals: 4-18, .222 (Brunson 1-2, Arcidiacono 1-3, Hart 1-4, Jenkins 1-7, Booth 0-1, Bridges 0-1). Blocked Shots: 2 (Reynolds, Ochefu). Turnovers: 9 (Hart 2, Bridges 2, Jenkins 2, Brunson, Reynolds, Arcidiacono). Steals: 11 (Bridges 5, Hart 2, Reynolds, Ochefu, Arcidiacono, Jenkins). Technical Fouls: None.

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

Kansas

Min

FG-A

FT-A

O-R

A

PF

PT

Lucas

35

3-3

0-1

1-12

2

2

6

Ellis

34

1-5

2-3

2-5

1

3

4

Mason III

40

7-14

1-2

1-3

4

3

16

Selden Jr.

38

6-14

4-5

1-2

3

3

16

Graham

35

6-13

0-0

0-7

0

5

17

Mykhailiuk

7

0-1

0-0

0-0

0

1

0

Bragg Jr.

6

0-0

0-0

0-0

1

0

0

Traylor

5

0-0

0-0

0-0

0

2

0

TEAM

   

1-3

   

Totals

200

23-50

7-11

6-32

11

19

59

Percentages: FG .460, FT .636. Three-Point Goals: 6-22, .273 (Graham 5-9, Mason III 1-6, Mykhailiuk 0-1, Selden Jr. 0-6). Blocked Shots: 2 (Selden Jr., Mason III). Turnovers: 16 (Mason III 4, Ellis 4, Selden Jr. 3, Graham 3, Bragg Jr., Traylor). Steals: 5 (Traylor, Ellis, Graham, Selden Jr., Mason III). Technical Fouls: None.

Half: Villanova 32-25. Attendance: 19,422. Officials: Terry Wymer, Chris Rastatter, Jeff Clark.

AP-WF-03-27-16 0318GMT

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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