Kansas Jayhawks

Villanova advances to national title game with record-setting performance

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Villanova advances to national title game with record-setting performance

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SAN ANTONIO -- One by one, Villanova keeps winning games and getting closer to another national title.

Three by three, the Wildcats kept knocking down shots, making sure Kansas wouldn't get in their way.

Villanova made a Final Four-record 18 3-pointers Saturday night and also became the most prolific 3-point shooting team in college-hoops history, playing long ball to snuff out the Jayhawks early in a 95-79 victory.

Junior wingman Eric Paschall led the barrage, going 4 for 5 from 3, 10 for 11 overall, and finishing with a career-high 24 points.

But the hoop was as wide as the Alamodome for pretty much everyone in a Wildcats jersey. Seven `Nova players made 3s. Villanova shot 50 percent from behind the arc in the first half to put things out of reach -- and 45 percent for the game.

"That happens sometimes when you're a good-shooting team and when you start that way," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It's hard for Kansas, it's hard to come back. That doesn't happen often. We're lucky it happened tonight."

Next up is Michigan, which will try to guard the perimeter Monday night when Villanova (35-4) goes for its second title in three seasons.

Good luck with that.

Nobody has had much success this season, and in what turned out to be an unexpectedly lopsided matchup between top seeds, Kansas (31-8) certainly didn't Saturday night. Player of the Year Jalen Brunson made three 3s and finished with 18 points. Omari Spellman made three, as well, in a 15-point, 13-rebound monster game.

About 1 minute into the second half, Paschall drained a 3 for Villanova's 14th of the game, breaking a Final Four record first set by UNLV in 1987.

Much earlier, at about the 13-minute mark of the first half, Collin Gillespie spotted up and swished for`Nova's sixth 3 of the game, which gave it the NCAA record for 3s in a season, with 442.

VMI set that record in 2007. Very few remember that team, though, because even though the importance of the long shot has grown as the decades have passed, it's never been thought of as a guaranteed way to win consistently.

Wright's team is laying waste to that theory and, at times, making other teams look bad while doing it.

On Saturday, the typical Villanova possession involved working the ball down low on the wing, then a skip pass across the bottom of the paint, followed by one, two or three passes around the arc until somebody got open. It usually worked. Most of the 18 makes barely skimmed the net.

Villanova attempted 40 shots from 3, and only 25 from 2.

Gillespie's record-setter gave Villanova a 22-4 lead, and at that point, Kansas had as many turnovers as points and had taken as many timeouts as it had field goals.

Coach Bill Self did what he could, urging his 7-foot center, Udoka Azubuike, out of the paint and into the faces of this group of hybrid forward-guards, all of whom can shoot. The big fella couldn't get there.

The Jayhawks, back in San Antonio on the 10-year anniversary of winning their last title here, made mini runs, but the deficit never got below double digits.

Devonte Graham, the senior guard who has been the glue in this Final Four season, led Kansas with 23 points. Malik Newman, who pushed his game into overdrive during the postseason, had 21. They combined to make 6 of 13 3-pointers themselves, but didn't get much help.

About the only drama in the second half was whether the Wildcats would top Loyola Marymount's tournament record of 21 3-pointers in a game (against Michigan, in a loss in 1990). Didn't happen, mainly because they didn't need it.

But there's still Monday.

Penn's miracle upset bid implodes in second half

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Penn's miracle upset bid implodes in second half

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WICHITA, Kan. — Devonte Graham kept driving to the rim, using his deft crossover and blinding first step to get past Penn's defenders, only to watch every shot he put up bounce out.

He turned to teammate Malik Newman and said, "Man, I'm just not finishing."

Newman's reply: "Keep being aggressive."

Graham evidently listened.

The Big 12 player of the year finally started to get his shots to go, igniting sluggish Kansas midway through the first half and finishing with 29 points, lifting the top-seeded Jayhawks to a tough, grind-it-out 76-60 victory over the Quakers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Lagerald Vick added 14 points for the Jayhawks (28-7), who trailed the Ivy League champs by 10 in the early stages Thursday before going on a 19-2 run late in the half to take control.

Graham, perhaps atoning for a dismal performance in last year's tournament loss to Oregon, also had six rebounds and six assists as the Jayhawks cruised into a second-round matchup with eighth-seeded Seton Hall — which beat North Carolina State — in the loaded Midwest Region.

"We didn't play well offensively the first half. We stunk," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It's hard for us to play well offensively if we don't make shots because we don't have a big guy to throw it into right now. The way they defended us, we needed a guard to take it on himself to get downhill."

Graham stepped up to the task.

"He was just keeping everybody's heads right," Vick said. "He told us we weren't going to lose."

A.J. Brodeur had 14 points to lead the Quakers (24-9), but he was just 6 of 16 from the field and committed five turnovers. He was also 1 of 5 from the foul line, where Penn was 5 of 14 as a team.

"Give Kansas a ton of credit. Thought they played a terrific game," Penn coach Steve Donahue said. "It was a great basketball game for about 35 minutes. Then they finished us off."

The Jayhawks played most of the way without 7-footer Udoka Azubuike, who hurt a ligament in his left knee in practice last week. The sophomore center played three minutes, all in the first half, and struggled to move around while wearing a bulky brace on his leg.

Newman, the MVP of last week's Big 12 Tournament, and Svi Mykhailiuk scored 10 points apiece for Kansas, which won its 12th consecutive NCAA opener — and avoided some ignominious history.

Trying to succeed where 132 other No. 16 seeds had failed, the Quakers raced to a 21-11 lead with about 7 minutes left in the first half. They leaned on their stingy perimeter defense to limit the hot-shooting Jayhawks' 3-point barrage, and their pick-and-roll offense was humming.

It took the Big 12 player of the year to restore some order.

Graham picked the pocket of Caleb Wood on defense, trailed a fast-break play and was there to lay in Mykhailiuk's missed layup, trigging what would become a 19-2 run over the next six minutes.

Graham added back-to-back baskets at the rim, then knocked down a pair of 3s later in the run. He capped his 19-point first-half barrage by drawing a foul as the Quakers were attempted to give a foul away, then hitting all three foul shots.

That gave the Big 12 champions a 33-26 lead heading into the locker room.

Penn hung around until midway through the second half, when the bigger, stronger Jayhawks began to assert control. Their veteran backcourt did most of the work, slowly drawing away.

"Credit to Graham, he realized what was going on in the game. He has a great feel for the game," Penn's Darnell Foreman said. "Knowing he's a senior, he had to step up and force the tone and create and he did a great job of that."

More on Doke
Self said Azubuike could have played "five or six minutes," but he wasn't needed in the second half. The hope is to get him to 80 percent in practice Friday and play more regular minutes Saturday.

Big picture
Penn was one of the top 3-point defenders in the nation, and the Jayhawks missed eight of their first nine attempts. But Kansas still went 7 of 17 for the game, and each of those 3s seemed to come whenever Penn was threatening to make a run.

Kansas only got four points from its bench, a big concern going forward. The Jayhawks have used a short lineup all season, made even shorter by Azubuike's absence. But teams with little depth tend to wear down in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Up next
Penn is headed for the offseason while the Jayhawks, who made their first appearance in Wichita since 1992, will face Seton Hall on Saturday.

Villanova climbs to No. 4 after winning Battle 4 Atlantis

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Villanova climbs to No. 4 after winning Battle 4 Atlantis

Villanova's impressive Thanksgiving weekend was enough for the Wildcats to move up a spot in Monday's AP poll, from No. 5 to No. 4.

After rallying from 15 points down to beat Tennessee in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals, Villanova, led by junior guards Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, dominated Northern Iowa 64-50 in Friday's final to take home the tournament title.

Aiding 'Nova's effort to move up was the poor week from previous No. 2 Arizona, which lost all three of its games in the Battle 4 Atlantis and dropped out of the Top 25.

Duke (8-0) stayed at No. 1 in the nation, receiving all 65 AP votes after two big comeback wins against Texas and then-No. 7 Florida led the Blue Devils to the Pk80 Invitational's Motion Bracket title.

Kansas climbed to No. 2 after beating Texas Southern and Oakland to stay at 5-0, while Michigan State and Notre Dame each moved up a spot to No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.

On Monday, Villanova and Kansas announced a home-and-home series the storied programs will play over the next two seasons.