LAWRENCE, Kan. – Villanova kept the heat on top-ranked Kansas in the final minute Saturday at ear-splitting Allen Fieldhouse, making it a one-possession game on three occasions.
But it was what happened in the previous eight minutes that told the story when the Wildcats went cold and the Jayhawks built up enough of a cushion behind the scoring of Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson to come away with a 74-71 victory before a sellout crowd of 16,300.
Phil Booth kept Villanova (8-4) in the game with 29 points. But for a stretch of 8 minutes, 17 seconds late in the second half, Booth’s reverse layup and two free throws were the only points the Cats put up on the board.
The visitors were 1 of 12 from the field during that time, and the Jayhawks (9-0) ran off 14 points to turn a three-point deficit into a 65-58 lead with 1:10 to play.
“I thought when it got close down the stretch, we just kind of settled offensively and didn’t really make tough offensive plays when Lawson and Vick did,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “Then we got behind and it was just catch-up. We just kind of threw up some threes and didn’t execute. I think that was the difference.”
Another factor was Eric Paschall’s foul trouble. Paschall went to the bench with 7:57 to play after picking up his fourth personal. He returned at the 3:35 mark but did not take another shot or score another point to add to the 17 he already had.
“He’s got to be smarter,” Wright said. “We need him in there. They had Lawson and Vick. We had Phil and we had Eric going but he was sitting in foul trouble in crucial parts of the game.”
Vick made 6 of 8 shots in the second half for 19 of his 29 points. Lawson added 28 plus 12 rebounds.
After scoring four points in 8:17, the Wildcats erupted for 13 in the final 58.4 seconds – seven by Booth and six by Collin Gillespie, both of whom attacked the rim repeatedly. Booth’s layup with 8.5 seconds to play made it a two-point game at 72-70.
The Jayhawks, who made 11 of their final 12 free throws, added to their lead one second later on Lawson’s two free throws. Gillespie then went hard to the rim again, was fouled with 1.9 seconds left and made his first free throw. He deliberately missed the second and teammate Saddiq Bey chased it to the Villanova bench, but he was about six inches out of bounds.
“They were a very good defensive team,” Booth said. “We missed some shots at the end, probably could have took some better shots. They did some great things defensively with their length.”
Despite 11 rebounds by Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, the Cats were beaten on the boards, 35-26, by a team missing injured 7-footer Udoka Azubuike. Villanova also didn’t get a single point from its bench in 29 minutes.
So the Jayhawks avenged their two more recent defeats to the Wildcats – in the 2016 NCAA South Regional and the 2018 Final Four.
Or did they?
“We’re 1-2 against Villanova because we beat them in the Sweet 16 (in 2008), they beat us in the Elite Eight and they beat us in the Final Four,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “That makes us 1-2. The game today was nice. The game in Atlantis which they won (in 2013) was nice. But it wasn’t a real game like those others were real games.