Postgame Report Card: No. 18 Villanova 56, No. 1 Kansas 55
Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 56-55 loss to Villanova on Saturday in Philadelphia.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.