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Kansas tops Villanova, advances to NCAA Tournament final

The Jayhawks, the only No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four, will meet North Carolina for the title.
Kansas' Ochai Agbaji, second from left, celebrates with Jalen Wilson (10), Remy Martin (11) and K.J. Adams (24) after their win against Villanova in the Final Four on Saturday at New Orleans.
Kansas' Ochai Agbaji, second from left, celebrates with Jalen Wilson (10), Remy Martin (11) and K.J. Adams (24) after their win against Villanova in the Final Four on Saturday at New Orleans. [ DAVID J. PHILLIP | AP ]
Published Apr. 3|Updated Apr. 3

NEW ORLEANS — Ochai Agbaji followed a celebrating stream of Kansas players off the floor at the Final Four, their shouts of “One more!” echoing all the way up the tunnel of the Superdome and right to the door of their locker room.

One more game awaits, the biggest of their careers.

The Jayhawks earned a trip back to the national championship game with a shooting performance Saturday that will go down in history.

David McCormack muscled his way for 25 points, Ochai Agbaji hit six 3-pointers and had 21, and the only No. 1 seed to reach the national semifinals this year rolled to an 81-65 victory over Villanova.

“That’s everyone’s attitude — even after this game, even after last weekend, the weekend before that — everyone’s attitude was on to the next one,” Agbaji said, “and not looking too far ahead at what’s going on Monday.”

Kansas will play for the championship in the same Superdome where it lost to Kentucky in the 2012 title game and to Syracuse in the 2003 final.

“You come to Kansas for big games,” said Christian Braun, who had 10 points, “but you don’t come to Kansas to play in the Elite Eight. You don’t come to Kansas to play in the Final Four. You come to play for a championship.”

The Jayhawks (33-6) hope a familiar pattern holds in Monday’s title game: The last three times the Jayhawks and Wildcats have met in the NCAA Tournament, the winner has gone on to win it all.

Playing without injured point guard Justin Moore, the Wildcats (30-8) watched as Kansas scored the game’s first 10 points and eventually built a 19-point cushion. And despite big performances from Collin Gillespie, Brandon Slater and Jermaine Samuels, the shorthanded and undersized Wildcats never made it all the way back.

Gillespie, playing in his 156th and final game for the Wildcats, hit five 3s and finished with 17 points, while Slater hit four 3s and had 16 points. Samuels finished with 13 points in the final game of his career.

“They played great. They were well-prepared. They really executed,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We did a lot of things wrong, but we want to make sure they get the credit they deserve. They played a great game.”

Each team finished with 13 made 3s, and the 26 shots from beyond the arc set a record for a Final Four game, topping the 25 that the same two teams made in their 2018 semifinal — won handily by Villanova — in San Antonio, Texas.

Unlike that night, though, it was the Jayhawks who pounced on Villanova at the start, trying to run ragged a team whose depth problems were only compounded by the loss of Moore, who tore his Achilles tendon in the region finals.

The Jayhawks applied pressure the moment Villanova inbounded the ball. They unleashed traps in halfcourt, something they rarely did in the regular season. And they twice picked the pocket of Gillespie, a two-time Big East player of the year, leading to easy baskets and a 10-0 lead before some of the 70,000-plus fans had even found their seats.

“We got off to such a great start in large part because of how we shot the ball,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.

Whenever Agbaji, the Big 12 player of the year, wasn’t enjoying the soft rims of the Superdome to knock down 3s, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound McCormack was having his way with the undersized Wildcats in the paint.

The Jayhawks’ lead soon stretched to 15 midway through the first half before Wright finally called timeout.


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