Louisville, Ky. The top overall seed is out of the NCAA Tournament and Villanova is headed to the Final Four.
No. 2 Villanova snapped Kansas’ 17-game winning streak Saturday night inside KFC Yum! Center with a stifling defensive effort that limited Kansas to one of its roughest shooting nights of the season.
Even if the stats did not show it, KU struggled to get much of a rhythm going all night and Villanova, which improved to 33-5, played tough defense and hit 18 of 19 free throws to pull out the victory, 64-59.
The Jayhawks fired the initial blow and controlled the first 6 or so minutes of this one, building a 16-12 lead and playing from a position of advantage the whole way.
View a gallery of images from the Jayhawks' Elite Eight matchup against the Villanova Wildcats.
But that’s when KU’s offense went cold and Villanova heated up, ripping off a 13-0 run to build a 9-point lead late in the half. KU trimmed the lead to four just before the break but a big three by Kris Jenkins inside the final 5 seconds put Villanova up seven heading into the locker room.
Kansas came out with a vengeance in the second half and, in seven minutes, completely erased that lead and built one of its own. KU led by as many as five on a couple of occasions midway through the second half and that’s when things turned into that heavyweight fight that people expected, with the teams trading huge blow after huge blow the rest of the way as the pressure mounted and tension tightened with every dribble.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the other action:
• The game turned when: Anyone was breathing at any point. This was a back-and-forth affair that featured all kinds of mini-runs and huge moments by both teams from start to finish. Nova's 10-0 run in response to a 9-0 run early in the second half that put Kansas up five, gave the Wildcats a 50-45 lead and Kansas never led again.
• Offensive highlight: With KU trailing 25-17 and struggling to get anything going on offense, Devonté Graham buried a huge three-pointer from the right wing that gave KU life and a little confidence. Early in the second half, with Kansas showing a little more life and polish on offense, Frank Mason III flipped an easy lob pass to Wayne Selden Jr. on an inbounds play underneath that Selden easily finished to pull Kansas within three again, 34-31 with 16:46 to play. After falling behind 36-31 in the moments after that, KU ripped off a 9-0 run that featured a bucket from Lucas, another inbounds basket by Selden, a power move to the rim by Ellis and a banked-in three-pointer by Graham, who simply smiled and shrugged after he saw the ball go through to put Kansas up 40-36.
• Defensive highlight: After a pair of free throws by Ellis opened the second half, Mason stole the inbounds pass after nearly forcing a five-seconds call and then drove hard to the rim to finish a twisty-turvy reverse layup that pulled Kansas within three (32-29) and prompted Villanova coach Jay Wright to call a timeout 19 seconds into the second half. With 7:24 to play in the game, another huge steal proved to be a huge play for Kansas. After Lucas missed the front end of a one-and-one that would’ve cut the Nova lead from five to four, Selden swiped the rebound out of the hands of an unsuspecting Villanova player and stole an extra possession for the Jayhawks. A couple of passes later, Graham buried his fifth three of the game to pull Kansas back within two, 50-48.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, as well as KU seniors Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor, describe the issues that came up for the Jayhawks in a 64-59 loss to Villanova in the Elite Eight. The loss, one game shy of the Final Four, ended KU's season, and the careers of ...
• Key stat: After carrying the Jayhawks for weeks — some might even say years — senior forward Ellis was stymied all night and finished his college career with a four-point outing on 1-of-5 shooting.
Controversial call: From Terry Wymer, on the officials' call with 34.1 seconds left in the second half:
"Kansas was in team control of the ball. The ball came loose and Kansas maintained the ball. Number four for Kansas (Graham) undercut number three for Villanova (Josh Hart). therefore it was a team control foul and they were not shooting a one-and-one. They never lost the ball. We (the officials) got together to review the sequences to make sure."
— Obtained by USBWA pool reporter Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports
• Up next: Nothing. KU’s season ends one game shy of the Final Four. Kansas finishes the season with a 33-5 record.
— See what people were saying about KU's Elite Eight loss during KUsports.com's live coverage