Villanova cruises by Kansas to reach second final in three years
Senior Eric Paschall scored 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting and led a three-point barrage that carried the Wildcats to a 95-79 victory against Kansas in the NCAA Men's Basketball Semifinals at the Alamodome.
A crowd of 68,257 watched the two No. 1 seeds meet for the first time since Villanova beat Kansas 64-59 in the South Regional final two years ago. Villanova went on to beat North Carolina for the national championship with a three-point buzzer beater by Kris Jenkins.
Villanova (35-4) will play Michigan (33-7) for the national championship Monday night. The title game will be the second in three years for the Wildcats, who beat North Carolina with a three-point buzzer beater for the championship in 2016.
The Wildcats made 18 of 40 three-pointers (45 percent) and shot 55.4 percent (36/65) for the game. Paschall nailed 4 of 5 three-pointers and Omari Spellman and Donte Divincenzo each had three.
Kansas (31-8) scored the first two points of the game on a basket by Udoka Azubuike, but that's the only time the Jayhawks led. Villanova answered with three consecutive three-pointers by Paschall, Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman, and the Wildcats were off to the races. The Wildcats led by as many as 22 points.
Jalen Brunson scored 18 points for Villanova, and Spellman and Divincenzo each finished with 15. Spellman also had 13 rebounds and three blocks. Bridges and Phil Booth rounded out the Wildcats' scoring with 10 points apiece. Brunson and Booth finished with six assists each.
Devonte Graham (23) and Malik Newman (21) led the Kansas scoring.
Wildcats have done good job of moving ball
Villanova has made 17 of 36 shots from the three-point line and is shooting 51.9 (28/54) thanks, in large part, to its crisp ball movement. The ball has hopped from side to side throughout the game, stretching the beleagured Kansas defense. Eric Paschall leads the Wildcats with 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting. He has made 4 of 5 three-pointers.
Villanova guard Paschall having stellar game
Junior guard Eric Paschall leads the Wildcats with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Paschall has hit 4 of 5 three-pointers. Villanova has made 17 of 34 shots from beyond the arc.
Wildcats continue three-point barrage in second half
Villanova remains scorching hot from the three-point line in the second half. The Wildcats have nailed 17 of 33 shots from beyond the arc.
Villanova punishing Kansas with its three-point shooting
The Wildcats nailed 13 of 26 attempts (52 percent) from the three-point line in the first half. National player of the year Jalen Brunson has hit 3 of 6 shots from beyond the arc. Villanova shot 53.1 percent (17/32) before the break. Brunson leads the Wildcats with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and Otari Spellman finished the half with nine rebounds.
Devonte Graham leads Kansas with 10 points. The Wildcats shot 43.3 percent (13/30) and hit only 2 of 6 three-pointers (33.3 percent).
Villanova fights off Kansas run
The Wildcats have hit two threes since the Jayhawks cut their lead to 22-11. Villanova is up 34-22 with 5:30 left in the half.
Jayhawks show some fight after trailing by 18
Kansas is on a 7-0 after falling behind 22-4 with 12:27 left in the first half. The Jayhawks need to hunker down on defense and keeping chipping away at the deficit. It won't be easy, though.
Wildcats hot from three-point early
Villanova has buried six three-pointers to take a 22-4 lead over Kansas with 12:46 left in the half. Eric Paschall, Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman each hit a three-pointer to give Villanova an early 9-2 lead. Spellman buried another three to put the Wildcats up 14-4, and Paschall followed with a put-back dunk to make it 16-4.
FINAL FOUR: Kansas-Villanova clash features showdown of No. 1 seeds
NCAA Men’s Basketball National Semifinals
Kansas (31-7) vs. Villanova (34-4)
When, where: Saturday, 40 minutes after the conclusion of first semifinal, Alamodome
Series history: Tied 3-3
Last meeting: Villanova 64, Kansas 59, March 26, 2016, Louisville, Ky.
Kansas’ last game: Beat Duke 85-81, OT, March 25, Midwest Region final, Omaha, Neb.
Villanova’s last game: Beat Texas Tech 71-59, March 25, East Region final, Boston
Notable: Kansas won the national championship 10 years ago at the Alamodome, beating Memphis 75-68 before a crowd of 43,257. Kansas guard Mario Chalmers was named the title game's MVP . . . Villanova defeated Kansas 64-59 in the Elite Eight round two years ago and went on to beat North Carolina 77-74 for the national title.
Whether you're in the stands or on the court, the Kansas-Villanova game Saturday night won't be one for the faint of heart.
Both No. 1 seeds, the Jayhawks and Wildcats mirror each other on both ends of the court, playing a four-guard offense most of the time and wearing down opponents with tenacious man-to-man defense.
"They're all talented," Villanova redshirt junior forward/ guard Mikal Bridges said Friday, referring to Kansas' four starting guards. "They can do everything, moving off the ball, coming off ball screens. They play so well together. And just really a talented force."
Teammate Phil Booth agreed with Bridges' assessment of the Jayhawks' guards.
"They're about just as complete a four-set of guards you'll see -- all unselfish, all can dribble, pass and shoot, like Mikal said," Booth said. "They play real well for one another, and they always look for the best shot. It can be very tough matchups for us and they just don't really force anything, just making everything easier on each other."
Kansas and Villanova share a recent history. The Wildcats beat the Jayhawks by five in the South Region final two years ago and went on to win their second national title with a scintillating 77-74 victory over North Carolina on a three-point buzzer beater by Kris Jenkins.
In the win over Kansas, Jenkins made two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, and guard Jalen Brunson added two more with 3.5 seconds to secure the victory. Brunson, now a junior, was named this week the winner of the Oscar Robertson Trophy as college basketball's player of the year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
Brunson has averaged 19.1 points and 4.8 assists this season and is shooting 52.7 percent. He has shot 41.4 percent from the three-point line.
Brunson was named Big East Player of the Year, the third Villanova guard in the last five seasons to earn the honor. He was a freshman starter on Villanova's 2016 championship team.
Villanova coach Jay Wright was asked Friday if he's seen any threads of similarities between the 2016 and 2018 teams.
"Definitely threads," he said. "To get this far, all the teams that are here, you have a laser focus, you have an ability to prepare for different opponents. If you don't, someone's someone's going to catch you along the way. And it really has to be at a high level.
"We've had some really good teams and sometimes you just can't get to that level at this time of the year. This group reminds me of our group in '16 in that way, and I feel like we're getting better as the season goes on, even at this time of year. And that's something that's similar to our team in '16."
Kansas could claim it has home-court advantage in its semifinal game against the Wildcats. The Jayhawks beat Memphis for the title at the Alamodome 10 years ago.
Kansas is in its 15th Final Four and first since 2012, when the Jayhawks lost to Kentucky in the final.