The Villanova onslaught began on possession No. 2. And for 39 minutes thereafter, it never really abated.
It rolled right into the Final Four record books, and right into the national championship game. It left Kansas helpless. By the time it was mercifully ended by the final horn in San Antonio, the score was 95-79. And not even those numbers accurately quantified Villanova’s dominance.
Or maybe dominant isn’t the word. Maybe unstoppable is. Because Kansas wasn’t necessarily bad. But from the time Villanova’s first 3-pointer, on its third attempt, fell through an Alamodome net, there was very little the Jayhawks could do.
They watched as the Wildcats, a fellow No. 1 seed, broke a Final Four record for 3-pointers made with almost 19 minutes to spare. Villanova bottomed 18 in all. It spread Kansas out, exposed center Udoka Azubuike, and got almost any jump shot it wanted.
The Wildcats didn’t shoot a free throw until the 8:48 mark of the second half, and made just four 2-pointers in the first. But they didn’t need contributions from inside the arc, because they put on a long-range clinic.
The brunt of the barrage came in the first half. Nova was 13-of-26 from deep. All five starters hit at least two from beyond the arc over the first 20 minutes. Seven players hit at least one. Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall pulled Jayhawk big men away from the hoop, and enabled the Wildcats to jump out to a 47-32 halftime lead.
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No. 1 Villanova vs No. 1 Kansas
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The advantage eventually stretched to 22. Kansas never got it back to single digits. Nova’s shooters were too hot. And when Kansas extended its defense to cool them down, Villanova took advantage at the rim. Its offense was too machine-like. Its all-around excellence was too comprehensive.
Both coaches had been on the right end of a similar Final Four blowout before. Jay Wright’s 2016 Villanova team shot 71.4 percent from the field in a 95-51 rout of Buddy Hield and Oklahoma. A decade ago, Bill Self’s 2008 title-winning team took a 40-12 first-half lead on North Carolina in a national semifinal.
Saturday night was never as one-sided. Nova’s shooting wasn’t as absurdly efficient. The final margin wasn’t as wide.
But the basketball clinic the Wildcats put in was just as instructive. And the statement they made was just as emphatic. They are the team to beat, as they have been since the second night of the 2018 NCAA tournament. And the Michigan Wolverines will have to play the game of their lives on Monday to halt Villanova’s charge toward a second national championship in three years.
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