While Villanova had been taking the ball inside against recent opponents, Jay Wright’s team obviously knew that particular door wouldn’t be open too often against top-ranked Kansas. This was a different kind of game, a battle from start to finish. Some observations from Saturday’s ferocious battle at the sold-out Wells Fargo Center.

The ball still moved for Villanova.

Villanova was pretty effective at driving and dishing, or getting the ball around the perimeter, finding open looks before halftime. The Wildcats were less successful taking advantage, making just 5 of 21 first-half threes.

But the formula grew more effective after the break, as Villanova took a 35-27 just over five minutes after the break.

So how was it tied at halftime?

A 23-23 halftime lead gets earned at both ends. While Kansas had a 16-6 halftime advantage on points in the paint, there were more points left at the rim, and the Jayhawks only had a 22-20 rebounding edge at the break. If your big guys can’t control the boards and can’t get out to all the shooters, your height advantage turns into a disadvantage.

How did Villanova’s young guys make out in this kind of game?

Freshmen Justin Moore and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl came ready to play. They missed their share of shots, like everyone else in this game. But the moment was hardly too big for them.

So who had the advantage in the end?

You could argue Villanova won the chess game, forcing Kansas to go to a smaller lineup. But that’s not the same as winning the game, which stayed up for grabs. As Kansas took a big man off the floor, Villanova started driving to the hoop, successfully. Kansas needed a couple of jumpers to loosen things up, and eventually got them. In the late minutes, it was Villanova that needed to hit the jumpers. In the end, a Collin Gillespie steal and layup and a Jermaine Samuels hit a big three for the game-winner, on a pass from Gillespie. A last Kansas drive was well contested, down went the top-ranked Jayhawks.

Devon Dotson, right, of Kansas guarded by Saddiq Bey of Villanova misses the final shot of the game during at the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 21, 2019.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Devon Dotson, right, of Kansas guarded by Saddiq Bey of Villanova misses the final shot of the game during at the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 21, 2019.