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Villanova falls at the Phog, No. 1 Kansas wins 74-71

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The Jayhawks did just enough to the hold off the Wildcats.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The top-ranked team in the country faced off against the defending National Champions on Saturday with Kansas prevailing on their home court by a score of 74-71 over the Villanova Wildcats.

It was a game of runs in the first half inside Allen Fieldhouse, as Kansas jumped out to a quick 8-1 start, only to be answered by a ferocious 12-0 run from the Wildcats. The Rock Chalk faithful then enjoyed an 11-0 spurt capped off by a LaGerald Vick three-pointer, which put them up 19-13. After a seesaw affair, Kansas headed into halftime with a 33-31 lead.

A duo of upperclassmen on both sides displayed some serious grit and determination this afternoon. Villanova’s senior captains Phil Booth had 29 points and his fellow 5th year Eric Paschall dropped 17. Collin Gillespie added 15 points.

Junior forward Dedric Lawson (28 pts.) and senior guard LaGerald Vick (29 pts.) accounted for 57 out of their total 74 points for the Jayhawks. Together, they shot a combined 19-for-30 on the floor.

Kansas’ prolific junior center, Udoka Azubuike was out with a sprained ankle from the Jayhawks' clash with Wofford. Azubuike’s absence was certainly felt by the Jayhawks, but they still had the ability to out-rebound Villanova 35-26.

Villanova went cold in the second half from deep, converting only 3 of their fifteen three point attempts. Aside from Booth and Paschall, the rest of the team went 2 of 14 for the game from beyond the arc.

One of the turning points of the game was when freshman Saddiq Bey had an electric putback slam with 9:13 left in regulation, putting the Wildcats up 54-51. Instead of taking advantage of the momentum from Bey’s big play, the ‘Cats preceded to go scoreless until the 5:29 mark. This allowed Kansas to retake the lead and not look back after some incredible shots made by senior LaGerald Vick.

Kansas built a 65-58 lead with one minute to play, but Villanova would not roll over. The ‘Cats got it to as close at 72-70 before being handed their second loss in a row. This is the first time since 2012-13 that Villanova has lost four games prior to January 1st.

The Wildcats face off against an old Big East foe when they meet Connecticut at Madison Square Garden next Saturday afternoon.