March Madness: Villanova shoots lights out on Kansas' championship hopes
Michigan Wolverines end Loyola-Chicago's Cinderella run
One by one, Villanova keeps winning games and getting closer to another national title.
Three by three, the Wildcats kept knocking down shots, making sure Kansas wouldn't get in their way.
Villanova made a Final Four-record 18 three-pointers Saturday night and also became the most prolific three-point shooting team in college-hoops history, playing long ball to snuff out the Jayhawks early in a 95-79 victory.
"That doesn't happen often. We're lucky it happened tonight." - <a href="https://twitter.com/NovaMBB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NovaMBB</a> head coach, Jay Wright on historic 3P shooting night to advance to the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NationalChampionship?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NationalChampionship</a> <br><br>🎙: <a href="https://twitter.com/tracywolfson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@tracywolfson</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LetsMarchNova?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LetsMarchNova</a> <a href="https://t.co/dmIyx69VYz">pic.twitter.com/dmIyx69VYz</a>—@marchmadness
Junior wingman Eric Paschall led the barrage, going 4 for 5 from three, 10 for 11 overall, and finishing with a career-high 24 points.
But the hoop was as wide as the Alamodome for pretty much everyone in a Wildcats jersey. Seven `Nova players made threes. Villanova shot 50 per cent from behind the arc in the first half to put things out of reach — and 45 per cent for the game.
"That happens sometimes when you're a good-shooting team and when you start that way," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It's hard for Kansas, it's hard to come back. That doesn't happen often. We're lucky it happened tonight."
Next up is Michigan, which will try to guard the perimeter Monday night when Villanova (35-5) goes for its second title in three seasons.
Nobody has had much success this season, and in what turned out to be an unexpectedly lopsided matchup between top seeds, Kansas (31-8) certainly didn't Saturday night. Player of the Year Jalen Brunson made three 3s and finished with 18 points. Omari Spellman made three, as well, in a 15-point, 13-rebound monster game.
About 1 minute into the second half, Paschall drained a three for Villanova's 14th of the game, breaking a Final Four record first set by UNLV in 1987.
Much earlier, at about the 13-minute mark of the first half, Collin Gillespie spotted up and swished for `Nova's sixth 3 of the game, which gave it the NCAA record for threes in a season, with 442.
On Saturday, the typical Villanova possession involved working the ball down low on the wing, then a skip pass across the bottom of the paint, followed by one, two or three passes around the arc until somebody got open. It usually worked. Most of the 18 makes barely skimmed the net.
Villanova attempted 40 shots from 3, and only 25 from 2.
No response from Jayhawks
Gillespie's record-setter gave Villanova a 22-4 lead, and at that point, Kansas had as many turnovers as points and had taken as many timeouts as it had field goals.
Coach Bill Self did what he could, urging his 7-foot centre, Udoka Azubuike, out of the paint and into the faces of this group of hybrid forward-guards, all of whom can shoot. The big fella couldn't get there.
The Jayhawks, back in San Antonio on the 10-year anniversary of winning their last title here, made mini runs, but the deficit never got below double digits.
Devonte Graham, the senior guard who has been the glue in this Final Four season, led Kansas with 23 points. Malik Newman, who pushed his game into overdrive during the post-season, had 21. They combined to make 6 of 13 three-pointers themselves, but didn't get much help.
Michigan ends Loyola-Chicago's Cinderella run
Staring down a 10-point deficit against an underdog that seemed nothing short of blessed during the madness of March, Moe Wagner and Michigan clamped down on Loyola-Chicago and ended one of the most memorable NCAA Tournament runs ever.
Wagner, Charles Matthews and the Wolverines erased a 10-point second-half deficit and Michigan beat the Ramblers 69-57 Saturday night in the Final Four.
The third-seeded Wolverines (33-7) will take a 14-game winning streak into their first national championship game appearance since 2013, and second under coach Jon Beilein.
Michigan will play either Villanova for its first NCAA title since 1989 on Monday night at the Alamodome.
Lovable Loyola (32-6), with superfan Sister Jean courtside and their fans behind the bench standing for pretty much the entire game, could not conjure another upset. The Ramblers were the fourth 11th-seeded team to make it this far and like the previous three, the semifinals were the end of the road.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SisterJean?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SisterJean</a> is still the greatest<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FinalFour?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FinalFour</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OnwardLU?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OnwardLU</a> <a href="https://t.co/heGKcNAivl">pic.twitter.com/heGKcNAivl</a>—@marchmadness
Coach Porter Moser said he was proud of players Ben Richardson, Aundre Jackson and Donte Ingram for holding it together during a postgame news conference, answering questions with red eyes and long faces.
"It was as tough a locker room as I've seen," Moser said. "They believed that they belong. They believed, they wanted to advance."
No answer for Wagner
Loyola had no answers for the 6-foot-11 Wagner and its offence, so smooth and efficient on the way to San Antonio, broke down in the second half and finished with 17 turnovers.
Wagner, playing in front of his parents who made the trip from Germany, scored 24 points, had 15 rebounds and was 10 for 16 from the field. Matthews, the Kentucky transfer and Chicago native, added 17 points, including a run-out dunk with 1:33 left that made it 63-53.
Matthews THROWS ONE DOWN off the break! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FinalFour?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FinalFour</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBlue?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBlue</a> <a href="https://t.co/GcL0qoDEx5">pic.twitter.com/GcL0qoDEx5</a>—@marchmadness
And that was that.
"I just tried to go in the game, take what the opponent is giving me, what the game is giving me, stay emotionally solid and don't get emotionally drunk, and it worked out today," said Wagner, who became the third player in the last 40 years with a 20 and 15 game in the Final Four, joining Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston in 1983 and Larry Bird of Indiana State in 1979.
Michigan's defence shuts down Loyola
Cameron Krutwig, Loyola's big man, scored 17 points and Clayton Custer had 13 of his 15 after halftime. But facing one of the best defensive teams in the country, the best defensive team Beilein has ever had in 11 seasons in Ann Arbor, the Ramblers scored just 16 points in the final 14 minutes.
Custer scored seven straight points for Loyola at one point to put the Ramblers up 41-31 with 14:08 remaining. Michigan refused to fade, even with point guard Zavier Simpson — whose solid play has been critical to the Wolverines' late-season surge — playing terribly. Simpson had none points and four turnovers.
Jaaron Simmons, Simpson's backup, made a 3 and Duncan Robinson hit another a few minutes later and the deficit was down to 45-42 with 10 minutes left.
"Not dropping our heads, that was the main thing," Simmons said. "We haven't been down in a game for a long time. So not dropping our heads was one of the main adjustments we had to make."
Wagner hit a 3 from right in front of the Michigan bench with 6:50 left to tie it, and moments later the Wolverines were back on top, 49-47, when Jordan Poole made two free throws.