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Tournament Throwback: #2 Villanova vs. #1 Kansas (2016)

The Wildcats knocked off top seed Kansas and secured the program’s fifth trip to the Final Four

Given the cancellation of this year’s NCAA Tournament, we have decided to use the next few weeks to look back and remember Villanova’s greatest tournament successes of the past. We will be walking through Villanova’s three National Championships on a game-by-game basis. So, as you’re locked inside quarantining and social distancing, share your thoughts, memories, and stories as we relive Villanova’s greatest moments.

#2 Villanova Wildcats vs. #1 Kansas Jayhawks

Regional Final

March 26, 2016

Original VUHoops Game Thread

Original VUHoops Recap

Game Watch

Tune in to the VUHoops’ screening of the Regional Final of the 2016 NCAA Tournament between #2 Villanova and #1 Kansas TONIGHT AT 7:00 p.m. EST.

The game should play simultaneously for all who are watching so please take part in the live game chat!

Link: VUHoops Re-Watch

Villanova’s D pulls through in final minute as No. 1 Kansas falls

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Villanova players danced and celebrated after pulling off what many thought would be the NCAA tournament’s most difficult task.

Beating Kansas, the No. 1 overall seed, required taking the Jayhawks out of their comfort zone while seizing the opportunities that resulted. The Wildcats did both effectively even though it wasn’t always pretty, and their reward is a berth in the Final Four.

Kris Jenkins made two free throws with 13.3 seconds remaining, Jalen Brunson added two more with 3.5 seconds left and second-seeded Villanova upset the top-seeded Jayhawks 64-59 on Saturday night in the South Region final. The Wildcats will play Oklahoma next weekend in Houston.

Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart each made big steals in the final minute to help the Wildcats (33-5) pull off the upset and end the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak. The Wildcats are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2009, and they can credit balanced scoring and ferocious defense.

Jenkins, Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono each scored 13 points for the Wildcats. They used a 10-0 run to take a 50-45 lead and get key baskets and plays down the stretch in beating the Jayhawks (33-5).

”Every guy on this team is willing to do whatever it takes to win, man,” said Jenkins, who made all six free throws to offset 3-for-10 shooting. “Everybody on this team sacrifices. But we’re not satisfied. We’re looking forward to our next game in Houston. This definitely is a special feeling, but like I said before, we’re not satisfied.”

Devonte’ Graham had 17 points, and Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr. added 16 each for Kansas, which got just four points from leading scorer Perry Ellis. The Jayhawks shot 46 percent from the field and even won the rebounding battle 32-28, but played from behind most of the night.

Even when it was ahead, Kansas never seemed in control and ended up making desperation plays that didn’t work.

Graham shot 5-of-9 from long range, but fouled out late, and everyone else was a combined 1-for-13 from behind the arc. Kansas also committed 16 turnovers, including several in the final minutes when it was within a possession of tying or leading.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

”I think the basket shrunk a little bit for us, and certainly, they probably got some confidence the way they were defending us,” Kansas coach Bill Self said about Villanova. “But it came down them making free throws and it came down to a couple of loose balls, and that was the difference in the outcome.”

Villanova got 10 points from Daniel Ochefu, including a big jumper with 6:14 left, just one of many big plays the Wildcats made to preserve the lead after finally wresting it from Kansas.

It wasn’t easy. Mason scored five points and the Jayhawks cut it to 60-59 with 15 seconds left. But Arcidiacono, who turned 22, preceded that with four free throws before Jenkins and Brunson followed with two more. The Wildcats made 18 of 19 at the line and all eight in the final 33 seconds.

The Wildcats were also given the ball with 34 seconds left when officials determined that Graham undercut Hart on a scramble after Graham’s turnover. Graham fouled out at that point, and Mason’s foul led to the first of Arcidiacono’s foul shots.

Darryl Reynolds had two free throws and Bridges had a key tip-in for the Wildcats as well in a game in which they shot 40 percent from the field.

Villanova gets to pursue its second national title in its fifth Final Four berth, though the NCAA vacated its 1971 appearance because star Howard Porter had signed a pro contract while still in college. The Wildcats will face Oklahoma next Saturday in Houston.

More importantly, the Wildcats did what no team had been able to over two months and really wasn’t expected to in knocking out the tournament favorite. But both teams had been ranked No. 1 this season and have been winning even bigger in the tournament.

This Elite Eight matchup seemed inevitable as a result, with Villanova coach Jay Wright comparing it to a heavyweight bout in Friday. The Wildcats ended up cutting off the court with a zone defense and mixing in timely offense.

Villanova’s 40-percent shooting including 4-of-18 from long range didn’t matter as the Wildcats had the victory that moves them into April.

”We wanted to make it a street fight, make it an ugly game,” said Arcidiacono, who shot 6-of-7 from the line to seal the win on his 22nd birthday. “I think we did that.”

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova no longer haunted by the ghost of tournaments past

BY C.L Brown

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the past 15 years, Villanova coach Jay Wright has held an invitation-only party at the Final Four, with the glorious exception of 2009, when the Wildcats made it.

It has grown from a quaint gathering to “almost out-of-control proportions.” Last year at his event in Indianapolis, Wright was making his rounds, greeting guests, when he paused briefly from cracking jokes and telling basketball stories for a moment of clarity.

“We’ve got to get back to the Final Four so I won’t be hosting this next year,” Wright said.

Wright will gladly take a break from playing host after the Wildcats’ 64-59 victory Saturday over Kansas vaulted them back to the Final Four for the first time in six seasons.

“There are going to be some people, especially our Philly people, who are going to be bummed out,” Wright joked. “It’s a great party.”

Villanova just earned its invite to a better one.

In doing so, Nova erased the narrative that has existed since its last Final Four appearance.

The Wildcats couldn’t find a way to get past the NCAA tournament round of 32, despite being a No. 2 seed in 2010 and 2014 and a No. 1 seed in 2015. Throw in first-round losses as a No. 9 seed in 2011 and 2013 and in five of the six seasons between appearances, they didn’t make it out of the first weekend.

Now they’ll be playing in the last.

“We knew everything said in the media about the first round and all that other stuff,” guard Josh Hart said. “This team is just so special we didn’t care about that. To us, we didn’t have a monkey on our back. A lot of these guys had never played in those early exits, this was a brand-new team.”

A brand-new team, maybe, but at the heart of it was two key seniors who had been through the disappointments.

“We were definitely tired of hearing it, especially our class because we were part of three of them,” senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono said. “We didn’t focus on getting past the first weekend, let’s just grind it out and see what happens.”

What happened was a Villanova team that overwhelmed its first three opponents with an offense that put up historic numbers. Its shooting percentage (62.7) against Miami in the Sweet 16 ranked third-highest since the tournament expanded in 1985.

But it was defense the Wildcats showed off against top overall seed Kansas, holding the Jayhawks to a season-low 59 points and forward Perry Ellis, who torched Maryland for 27 points Thursday, to a season-low four.

Nova forward Daniel Ochefu said the Wildcats weren’t fixated on past failures but added that the reputation developed because of them. He knew the only way to change the perception of Villanova in the tournament was to deliver like it had not before.

“People had the right to say it,” the senior said. “That just means they expect great things of us like we do of ourselves. For us to finally get to this point, it means a lot to this program and all the guys in this locker room.”

Wright said the players might have taken early exits in past tournaments harder than they should have. But without those losses, he doesn’t know if Saturday would have been possible.

The disappointments shaped Villanova into a more resilient team.

“I was proud of them the last two years,” Wright said. “I thought it was going to be a learning experience that would help them for life. But it really was a learning experience that helped them for this year because they failed twice and they came back from it and they played here without fear of failure.”

There was no fear in the Wildcats. Not even when their offense had gone stagnant to start the second half and the Jayhawks seemingly had seized momentum.

Villanova never doubted itself, which might come in handy next week in Houston, where it will likely be underdogs against an Oklahoma team that beat the Wildcats 78-55 on Dec. 7.

“All they ever did was doubt us, man,” forward Kris Jenkins said. “But we’re not done yet.”

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