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Postgame Report Card: No. 18 Villanova 56, No. 1 Kansas 55

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Villanova's Collin Gillespie (2) shotos over Kansas' Ochai Agbaji (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Villanova's Collin Gillespie (2) shotos over Kansas' Ochai Agbaji (30) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) by Associated Press

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 56-55 loss to Villanova on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Offense: C-

• This game was ugly offensively on both ends throughout the first half. The Jayahwks didn’t even shoot 50% in the paint (8-for-17) and turned the ball over 7 times in the first 20 minutes, when they shot 10-for-27 overall from the field.

KU had to work for its points in the paint, and wasn’t able to get out to a big lead, because many of the contested looks that came in the paint wouldn’t drop.

• The offense muddied even further in the opening minutes of the second half, allowing Nova to build an 8-point lead. KU turned the ball over 3 times and shot 2-for-7 in the first 5 minutes of the second half.

• Scoring in the paint would be the key for KU, but the Jayhawks found in the second half they could do that with their guards driving inside, allowing them to keep it competitive.

Those high-percentage looks came with the floor opened up by the presence of four guards on a day that KU had spent most of the first 25 minutes or so playing two bigs.

• KU shot just 43.6% in the loss, going 3-for-13 on 3-pointers and 4-for-10 at the free throw line.

Defense: A-

• Give the Jayhawks’ defense some credit for Villanova’s struggles through much of the first half. The Wildcats took even more 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes than one might expect, jacking 21 from deep. But Nova only made 5 of those looks, keeping the home team from ever leading by more than 2 in the first half.

Villanova shot 9-for-31 (29%) in the first half.

• The Wildcats’ offense improved in the second half as they started playing more assertively and scoring inside the arc more frequently. They shot 40.6% from the floor in the final 20 minutes, with 8 of their 13 baskets coming on 2-point attempts.

• It was not a pretty shooting day for Villanova but Jermaine Samuels was able to nail a huge 3-pointer with about 20 seconds to play, giving the home team a 56-55 lead.

Nova made only 10-for-41 (24.4%) from downtown.

Frontcourt: C+

• KU played to its size advantage out of the gate, deliberately getting the ball inside to either of its starting bigs, Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.

That worked fine for a bit. But the Jayhawks ran into some issues defensively against Villanova’s smaller lineup, with the Wildcats wanting to stretch the floor. Plus, playing through the KU bigs proved to be hit and miss, as Villanova’s undersized defenders were tough enough to challenge their larger foes.

• The best thing about playing Azubuike and McCormack against Villanova seemed to be that their size and forcefulness would take its toll on smaller Nova defenders. In the second half Azubuike was able to play as the featured big and came away with one of the most emphatic dunks of the season in the final minutes.

Azubuike provided 12 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks, while McCormack finished with 6 points and 7 boards in 25 minutes.

Backcourt: C+

• Ochai Agbaji’s energy on the defensive end of the floor stood out from the game’s opening minutes. Incredibly, the sophomore had been credited for 3 steals by the second media timeout of the marquee matchup in Philly.

Agbaji did a nice job finding teammates, too. Even though it wasn’t one of his best-case shooting days (1-for-4 on 3-pointers), he gave KU 4 assists and 11 points, to go with his defense. His cut for a layup late put KU up 53-51.

• When the offense for both teams finally picked up near the midway point of the second half, Devon Dotson began to stand out for KU, driving to the paint for a layup on one possession and draining a 3-pointer when left open a couple minutes later.

In such a low-scoring game, Dotson’s 10 2nd-half points felt even larger. The sophomore point guard seemed ready for the big stage, even though his shots weren’t always falling. But he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with KU down a point with 17 seconds left.

The heady defensive play of the point guard would help make up for that shortly thereafter, as he leapt into the air to disrupt an inbound pass for Villanova. The officials ruled the ball went out of bounds off Villanova thanks to Dotson’s hustle. So KU got the ball back, trailing 56-55 with 11.2 seconds left.

Dotson would take the potential game-winning shot before time expired, driving at a larger defender. With the ball getting deflected on Dotson’s gather he wasn’t able to get his bank shot on target and Villanova won.

Dotson ended up with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, with 3 turnovers. He was 4-for-7 at the foul line.

• A right ankle injury ended Marcus Garrett’s day prematurely, with a little more than 5 minutes to play in the first half. KU would miss one of its toughest and smartest players, who had 2 points and 2 rebounds in 13 minutes.

Bench: C

• Christian Braun was the first sub to impress at Philadelphia and it didn’t come until KU needed some more guard help early in the second half. Braun looked comfortable in the battle of elite college basketball programs, even though it was his first true road game at KU.

His drive and finish inside early in the second half got KU’s offense going and he would score an even larger layup with less than 2 minutes to play, pushing KU’s lead to 4. Braun finished with 6 points and 2 boards.

• With Garrett out, KU needed Tristan Enaruna’s versatility. The freshman’s defensive instincts showed up in crunch time when he, like Braun shortly before him, blocked a Villanova shot for a key defense stop. Enaruna also added 3 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.

• Senior Isaiah Moss’ shot was off — 0-for-5 — keeping him from playing much at Villanova.

Comments

Barry Weiss 1 month ago

I think your grades are a bit low. That was a good Villanova team on their home court and we had the shot to win. I can't recall a game where we had that many bunnies at the rim that just would not go down. Just one of those, and a few free throws (40% sucks) and we win this game.

Robert Brock 1 month ago

Our defense did a reasonable job of running Nova off the 3 line. But the KU offense stunk. So predictable. So twentieth century.

Steve Zimmerman 1 month ago

Losing Marcus is tough. But he's not the only reason we lost.. fans should know by now, our offense style is not as dynamic as the more modern basketball offense. Instead of running pick-n-rolls, screens, lots of moving parts, we rely on pounding bigs - inside. Easy to defend, bigs don't need to move. Yes, the old way of playing high-low. We have some wins, because we make 'em 3s, and bigs inside are dominant. However, when you play against good div-1, it's different. Plus, most of these other teams, they shoot 3s in big volume. More chance to catch up, more chance to win. It's tough to defend them, ball moves faster than human. Much faster.

Another offense style that coach Self runs is go through the speedy Dotson. He might be the fastest college guard, but this is basketball. It's not a one-man offense. He should know better than challenging 2-3 guys inside. Why not lobbing to the hungry bigs, instead?? SMH SMH.. Learn how to throw lobs, been telling this for a long time.

Drew Doerfler 1 month ago

i would have the defense at a c as well.....the only reason Villanova didn't score very much was that they missed wide open 3 after wide open 3. It wasn't our defense that made them shoot a poor percentage from 3, they just missed wide open shots. and ogbagi needs to do much better rebounding the ball...with his height and athletic ability, getting only 2 rebounds is kind of pathetic...i rememeber one time at a critical point late in the game where the guy behind him jumped right over the top of him to get the board and agbagi was just standing there

Steve Zimmerman 1 month ago

Here's why coachJay has more success with 4/1 motion-offense:

We would've won had we kept shooting 3s when Moss, Braun, Enaruna were open. But we didn't. We kept relying on Dotson's speed to go inside, or have him take a J. Ball thrown inside to bigs, but when they're not in their best position facing the basket. We allowed defenders establish good defense position so bigs have no easy way dunking, but had to perform hook shot, or in McCormack case, a J away from the basket.

I like it when Dotson lobbed to Ochai cutting from the wing or when he was wide open to dunk in front of the rim. I wish Dotson trust our bigs just like he do Ochai. Our offensive rebounds don't look impressive, you know why? Bigs dont' feel motivated enough to go get the ball because they don't get lobs inside as much, they dont' get a pass when Dotson drives. If they keep getting those passes they're more alert and ready to rebound more. You see, when Dotson drives, the bigs are just kind of like passive and watch the show. There's a lot of holes in our offense. Serious gaps. We have bigs, but we dont' use them to their highest potentials. Get used to this already.

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