Kansas Jayhawks

Celebrating Temple upset Kansas and a sad friend was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

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Celebrating Temple upset Kansas and a sad friend was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

I don’t go to a lot of games. I never did. I can’t even think of the last postseason game I saw live, which accounts for many of these strolls down memory lane. 

So while reading some of my colleagues write about the best game they’ve ever been to, I couldn’t really relate. I remember where I was when DeSean Jackson returned that punt or when Vince Carter’s baseline jumper bounced off the rim, but it wasn’t in the building to witness it.

So here it is. The best game I ever saw live was in December of 2014. I was a couple years out of college and my alma mater Temple University was hosting Kansas. A friend of mine is a gigantic Kansas fan and got tickets to see his beloved Jayhawks make light work of the Owls. He invited me and, with extremely low expectations, I joined him. 

Kansas, like always, was a top-10 team at the time. The Owls were 7-4. No. 4 Duke and No. 7 Villanova had housed Temple earlier in the season, each loss by 20 points. My friend, along with more than half of the crowd wearing blue, was treating this like an exhibition game. It was a chance to see Frank Mason and Kelly Oubre and Perry Ellis (in what I believe was his seventh season at Kansas) put on a show.

They did not.

Temple scored the first basket and never looked back. A Will Cummings three-pointer made it 12-2 before we could take off our coats. Midway through the first half, Devin Coleman came up with a steal leading to a Jaylen Bond dunk and it was 22-10. Timeout Kansas. Basketball is a game of runs and the tide can turn quickly, especially at the college level, so the Kansas crowd remained calm.  My friend was annoyed by his team’s start but panic had yet to set in.

I was all smiles. This was fun.

Temple took a 10-point lead into the half. That was nothing for a blue-blooded squad like KU. In the second half, the better team will emerge, my friend mumbled to himself.

But the second half was much more of the same. Temple was hitting everything and by the under-12 timeout the lead had swelled to 17. The Owls shot 58 percent from the field, compared to an abysmal 32 percent by Kansas. A few minutes later, Jesse Morgan knocked down a three and it was Temple, yes Temple, who held a 20-point lead. Timeout Kansas.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the game. I spent most of the night watching the joy evaporate from my friend’s face and taunting the surrounding Kansas fans looking on in disgust. The final seconds ticked away on a 77-52 blowout and the student section stormed the court. Did I join it? You bet I did. I remember being on the court, surrounded by kids acting like it was time to cut down the nets. And I remember looking to the section where we were sitting and seeing my poor friend who just wanted to go home, standing alone looking so very sad. It was the best.

Maybe my behavior was petty at the time and maybe reliving it now is too. But hey, I don’t go to a lot of games.

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No. 17 Villanova falls to No. 1 Kansas in Final Four rematch

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No. 17 Villanova falls to No. 1 Kansas in Final Four rematch

BOX SCORE 

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lagerald Vick had never watched last season's Final Four loss to Villanova before this week, when top-ranked Kansas had to endure every minute of it while prepping for Saturday's game against the Wildcats.

"We watched it for like, a week straight," Vick said. "It was definitely hard."

He'll have better memories of the rematch.

Vick poured in 29 points Saturday, Dedric Lawson added 28 points and 12 rebounds, and both helped the Jayhawks make just enough free throws in the closing minutes to hold off the No. 17 Wildcats 74-71 in a game that was nip-and-tuck almost the entire way.

Devon Dotson added 11 points for the Jayhawks, including four effortless free throws in the final 1:10 to help Kansas (9-0) end a three-game losing streak to Villanova -- the last two in the NCAA Tournament.

"This atmosphere was just awesome," Wildcats coach Jay Wright. "We played a great program, just a great atmosphere -- tough game -- and they just did a great job getting Lagerald Vick in spots where he wanted it, and Dedric Lawson, you know you're not going to shut them out."

Still, the Wildcats (8-4) had chances in the final couple minutes.

Collin Gillespie's three-point play drew them within 69-65 with 31 seconds left, and Vick gave them an opening when he threw the ball away on the ensuing inbounds play. But Vick atoned for the mistake by pulling down a defensive rebound, and then calmly made a pair of free throws at the other end.

Phil Booth's deep, line-drive 3 got Villanova within 71-68, and after Lawson made the second of two foul shots for a 72-68 lead, Booth added another driving layup to trim the deficit to two.

Lawson added two more free throws to restore a 72-68 lead with 7.5 seconds left, and Gillespie was fouled at the other end. He made the first but was forced to miss the second on purpose, and the ball squirted toward the Wildcats' bench, where a scrum ultimately gave Kansas the ball with 0.4 seconds left.

Once the Jayhawks inbounded the ball, they finally had a long-awaited win over the Wildcats.

Even if it came with far less on the line.

"We're still 1-2 against Villanova," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. "We beat them in the Sweet 16. They beat us in the Elite Eight. They beat us in the Final Four. The game today was nice, but it wasn't a real game like the others were real games."

Booth finished with 29 points for the Wildcats. Eric Paschall scored 17 but was rendered ineffective down the stretch because of foul trouble, and Gillespie finished with 15 but was just 1 for 7 from 3-point range.

Kansas has now won 39 straight in Allen Fieldhouse as the nation's top-ranked team.

"They're a very good defensive team," Booth said. "We missed some shots at the end, but they did some great things defensively with their length. They just did a great job."

The Jayhawks led 33-31 at halftime, despite playing most of the way without Dotson and fellow starter Quentin Grimes. Grimes picked up three early fouls and Dotson had two, relegating them to the bench.

Their teammates picked them up with the kind of defensive effort Kansas sorely needed in their lopsided Final Four loss, when Paschall and Co. made just about shot they took. The Jayhawks harried the senior forward into a couple of crucial turnovers while largely shutting down the paint.

Villanova found its offensive stride in the second half.

Then again, so did Kansas.

And what most had envisioned as an up-and-down, back-and-forth showdown between national powers turned into precisely that. There were eight ties and eight lead changes, the majority of them in the opening minutes of the second half, as two of college basketball's blue-bloods went toe-to-toe in the Phog.

"This was a good game that allows you to have a quality win," Self said, "and you play through the experiences that make you better. But Jay would tell you, we're both going to play in bigger games than this."

No Quinerly
Villanova freshman Jahvon Quinerly watched from the bench after an Instagram post earlier in the week criticizing his own program. Wright said Quinerly had apologized and it would be used as a "teaching moment." The five-star recruit has played in only eight games this season.

Celeb sightings
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Hall of Fame Royals third baseman George Brett were in the crowd. So was a handful of former Kansas players, including Nick Collison, who is No. 2 on the school's career scoring list.

Big picture
Villanova played much better than it did in a loss to Penn earlier in the week, putting a scare into the No. 1 team in the country. But the Wildcats were just 3 of 15 from beyond the arc in the second half, and they were dominated on the glass for the second consecutive game.

Kansas has certainly earned its ranking, beating a trio of ranked teams already this season. The one thing the Jayhawks haven't done is win a true road game, and they'll get that opportunity when they head to No. 20 Arizona State next weekend.

Up next
Villanova plays UConn next Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas hosts South Dakota on Tuesday night.

Villanova advances to national title game with record-setting performance

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AP Images

Villanova advances to national title game with record-setting performance

BOX SCORE 

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.