Top-ranked Kansas holds off Villanova, 74-71

Guard Lagerald Vick scored 29 points and forward Dedric Lawson had 28 and 12 rebounds on Saturday, as the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks held off defending NCAA champion Villanova, 74-71.

An announced crowd of 16,300 at Allen Fieldhouse watched as freshman guard Devon Dotson scored six points in the final 2:25 for the Jayhawks.

For 17th-ranked Villanova, Phil Booth scored 29 and Eric Paschall produced 17.

The game was a rematch of sorts of the 2018 NCAA semifinals, in which the Wildcats routed the Jayhakws 95-79 at the Alamodome on the way to their second national title in three years.

Records

Kansas 9-0
Villanova 8-4

Notable

Kansas has notched victories this season against four teams in this week’s AP Top 25, including No. 3 Tennessee, (9) Michigan State, (17) Villanova and (21) Marquette.

Dedric Lawson, a transfer from Memphis, is on fire. He has posted six straight games of 20 or more points. Also, he has produced six games this season of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Villanova roars to second NCAA title in three years

Guard Donte DiVincenzo poured in a career-high 31 points off the bench in front of a roaring crowd at the Alamodome Monday night, lifting the Villanova Wildcats to a 79-62 victory over Michigan for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo set a record for most points in an NCAA title game by a non-starter. He scored 31.

It was Villanova’s second title in three years.

DiVincenzo, a 6-5 sophomore from Wilmington, Delaware, scored 18 in the first half when Villanova rallied from a seven-point deficit to take a nine-point halftime lead.

He continued to put on a show in the second half, finishing with a 10-of-15 shooting performance. DiVincenzo knocked down 5 of 7 shots from three-point range.

Guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the Wolverines with 23.

Records

Villanova: 36-4

Michigan: 33-8

Attendance

67,831

Quotable

Asked what turned the game around after Michigan seized an early seven-point lead, Villanova coach Jay Wright momentarily dodged the question, saying, “We want to congratulate the Michigan Wolverines (and coach) John Beilein, a great program (with) great fans, and we’re proud to have played them in this game.

“To answer your question, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are our leaders. When we got down, those three kept us together.”


Villanova coach Jay Wright tells reporters it is difficult to comprehend that his teams have won two championships in the past three seasons.

Catching fire again

Just as Michigan started to make a push midway through the second half, DiVincenzo caught fire once again.

The Wolverines pulled within 13 points, but DiVincenzo answered with a free throw and two threes over the next two minutes to push the Wildcats back out front, 62-46, with eight minutes remaining.

The outburst boosted DiVincenzo’s point total to 27 points.

A dust-up after halftime

An offensive foul called on Michigan center Moritz Wagner with 15:24 remaining sparked emotions among players on both squads, resulting in technical fouls on Wagner and Villanova center Omari Spellman.

After the whistle, Wagner and Spellman faced off, as fans jeered the play.

After a review, officials elected to call double technicals.

The play underscored Villanova’s ploy to blanket Wagner with a physical defense, in an apparent attempt to take Michigans’s leading scorer out of his rhythm.


Holding court with reporters after the game, Jay Wright said he always told Donte DiVincenzo that he had to play defense to play for the Villanova Wildcats.

First-half summary

Trailing by seven, the Wildcats rallied behind DiVincenzo to take a 37-28 lead at intermission.

DiVincenzo scored 12 points in Villanova’s 23-7 run in the final 11 minutes.

Early in the game, Wagner, a 6-11, multi-skilled center, led the Wolverines to a 21-14 advantage.

Showing off a variety of skills, either down low or outside on the perimeter, Wagner scored 11 points in nine minutes.

But after Wagner’s bucket in the paint made it a seven-point game and brought Michigan fans out of their seats, DiVincenzo went to work for Villanova.

Included in his outburst was a long three from the left wing to boost the Wildcats into a 23-21 lead.

He added another three and a dunk to finish the half with 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting.

Michigan forward Moritz ‘Moe’ Wagner said referees didn’t explain a double technical foul called on him and Villanova forward Omari Spellman. ‘But I wasn’t worrying about it. I just moved on to the next play. Stuff happens.’

On April 2, before a crowd of 67,831 at the Alamodome, Villanova celebrated a 79-62 victory over Michigan for the NCAA title.

It’s down to two: Villanova, Michigan to duel for a title

The Villanova Wildcats and Michigan Wolverines on Sunday kicked into high gear their preparation for Monday’s NCAA basketball championship game at the Alamodome.

Coaches and players were also meeting with the media.

Villanova coach Jay Wright (pictured, above) talks to reporters Sunday on the eve of the national title game against Michigan.

Wright won his first NCAA championship in Houston two years ago when Villanova topped North Carolina, 77-74.

He’ll get a shot to seize the second crown of his career on Monday night at the Alamodome in downtown San Antonio.

“We are thrilled to be here, obviously,” Wright said. “Every time you come up here, you just kind of pinch yourself, like, we’re still here. This is really cool.”

Villanova forward Eric Paschall emerged as one of the stories of the Final Four Saturday when he hit 10 of 11 shots and scored a team-high 24 in a 95-79 victory over Kansas.

With his performance, Paschall put himself in position to play in his first title game for the Wildcats.

He sat out under transfer rules in 2015-16 when Villanova beat Oklahoma and then North Carolina in Houston.

Michigan coach John Beilein addresses the media at the NCAA Final Four.

Michigan coach John Beilein said Villanova put on an “offensive clinic” against Kansas.

“It was an offensive clinic against a very good defensive team,” Beilein said. “We’re just pleased to be in this forum right now, where we’re playing the last day.”

Michigan advanced to the title game with a 69-57 victory over Loyola-Chicago.

Michigan guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on Sunday afternoon discussed the impact that coach John Beilein has had on his career.

Abdur-Rahkman came to Michigan as a two-star recruit and worked his way into a starter’s role.

He told reporters that he always appreciated that Beilein treated players who weren’t playing the same way he treated athletes in the rotation.

Abdur-Rahkman will be a key figure in the championship game with his ability to guard the three-point line.

It’s confession time.

On Saturday afternoon, I got myself into a bit of a rush on my way to the Final Four.

Preparing to leave my house, I left my phone charger in the living room.

Once I arrived in the dome press room, I unpacked my gear and discovered the mental error.

Fortunately, my wife was home and, as usual, was more than willing to help me out.

She drove downtown and delivered the phone charger, handing off to me in front of the Express-News building.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having to walk from the dome to the newspaper, and back, but I’m glad I did.

It was a chance to see and hear the sights and sounds of visitors on their way to the game.

In a sense, a mental error allowed me to feel the pulse of the tournament.

It was special.

Villanova hits a record 18 threes to sink Kansas

The record-setting Villanova Wildcats buried six three-pointers in the first seven minutes Saturday night at the Alamodome en route to an easy 95-79 victory over Kansas in the NCAA Final Four semifinals.

With the win, the Wildcats set the stage for a Monday night showdown against the Michigan Wolverines for the national title.

Michigan advanced earlier in the evening by rallying in the second half to down Loyola-Chicago, 69-57.

In the blowout over Kansas, Villanova set a Final Four record for three-pointers in a game with 18.

Villanova also established an NCAA single season record for threes in a season with 454.

Remarkably, the Big 12-champion Jayhawks led only once in the game at 2-0 before the Wildcats started to rain threes on them.

Eric Paschall, Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman hit three straight from long distance to make it 9-2.

Spellman, Donte DiVincenzo and Collin Gillespie added three more to cap a 22-2 run.

Suddenly, the Jayahwks were down by 18 and struggling.

The struggle lasted for the duration of the half as the Wildcats maintained a double-digit lead though intermission.

Trailing by 47-32 entering the second half, the Jayhawks hit a couple of free throws to cut the lead to 13.

Not to be outdone, Paschall nailed another three to start a 7-0 run for the Wildcats, boosting the lead to 20.

Kansas never got closer than 14 the rest of the way.

Statistics

Attendance in the dome was announced at 68,257.

Villanova continued to bury tournament opponents with its prolific shooting from beyond the arc, hitting 18 of 40 threes against Kansas, increasing its totals to 66 of 156 in five NCAA games.

Paschall, who sat out Villanova’s 2016 NCAA championship run while sitting out under transfer rules, led the Wildcats with 24 points on 10 of 11 shooting from the field and 4 of 5 from three.

Guard Jalen Brunson produced 18 points, including 13 in the first half, to go with a team-best six assists.

The recently-named Player of the Year in college basketball by the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers also nailed 3 of 8 from deep.

Spellman, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound redshirt freshman, contributed a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Stepping outside, he showed off great touch, hitting 3 of 9.

DeVincenzo was 3 of 5 from deep to go along with his usual energetic play off the bench. He had 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists.

Quotable

“Well, that was just one of those nights, man,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Man, we made every shot to start the game. And when you do that, you get up 22-4, if you’re a decent free-throw shooting team, it’s tough to come back on that.”

Notable

Kansas guard DeVonte’ Graham finished with 23 points and three assist in 39 minutes, and came off the floor with tears in his eyes, having played his last game for the Jayhawks.

Malik Newman, who had 32 points in an Elite Eight victory over Duke, scored 21. But he had only 7 points on 3 of 8 shooting when Kansas was getting blown out before intermission.

Quotable

Graham said coach Bill Self told the players to keep their heads up.

“We had an unbelievable season,” Graham said. “You know, it’s not the way you want it to end. But even if you lost by one point it will still hurt. And we all just need to keep our heads up. It’s going to hurt now but we’ll be all right.”

Self disagreed gently with a question that suggested the season had a “sour ending” with the blowout loss.

“I don’t know if I totally agree with that,” he said. “To me it would be a sour ending if you lost on the last possession. Do you feel better, you know, losing the way we did today or losing on the last possession?

“You always want to perform in a way to put yourself in position to win. But when it’s the last game, certainly it stings and hurts no matter what. I’m really proud of our guys.

“We did not have the perfect roster in many ways to probably win 31 games and win the league in a great league and conference tournament ad get to the Final Four, in a lot of ways.

“And, today, it felt like today it just kind of caught up with us.”

Villanova’s Brunson studied Dirk Nowitzki’s post moves

Villanova guard Jalen Brunson has won two major Player of the Year awards.

Villanova guard Jalen Brunson is an old soul in so many respects. The way he defers to his teammates. The way he studies the game.

The way he uses, as a point guard, post-up moves that would make some NBA centers take notice.

Named as the Player of the Year in college basketball by both the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers, Brunson will lead the Wildcats into the Final Four Saturday night against the Kansas Jayhawks.

He said Thursday that he developed his post game with help from his father, Rick Brunson, an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves and a former nine-year NBA veteran out of Temple.

But, surprisingly, Brunson said the player he watched and studied most wasn’t a guard.

“I know this is going to sound crazy,” Brunson told The JB Replay. “But I really like how (Dallas Mavericks center) Dirk Nowitzki plays in the post.

“I just love the way he uses his shot. He just finds the ways to use his footwork … for angles to make plays not just for himself, but for others.

“Honestly, I watched a lot of that, and my dad really helped me with that, to be able to use my footwork and to be able to use my mind to read a defense.

“To use my body to see how a defender’s playing. Its a culmination of all that.”

Villanova coach Jay Wright said coaches discovered Brunson’s effectiveness with his back to the basket in a drill “a couple of summers ago.”

“We put Jalen in there and … coaches started looking at each other like, ‘Wow, his post moves are incredible … we’re going with this, we’re using this.

“But then as he’s continued to develop, he loves it. And he loves to work at it, and his footwork is incredible.”

With two Catholic schools in Final Four spotlight, UIW rebuilds

Carson Cunningham started work this week as men’s basketball coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

The presence of the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and the Villanova Wildcats at the NCAA Final Four this week serves as proof that small, Catholic schools can compete – and win – against larger, state-supported institutions.

On the other hand, the Division I basketball gods don’t always smile on the Catholic institutions.

If you doubt that, just call over to the athletic department at the University of the Incarnate Word and ask for new men’s basketball coach Carson Cunningham.

Cunningham, who has been on the job for only a few days, is busy trying to figure out how to correct problems that led to a 19-38 combined record the past two seasons.

UIW finished 7-21 last year and at one point lost 17 straight.

Asked about the nature of the rebuilding task at UIW, Cunningham said Tuesday afternoon that “we certainly have work to do.”

Which is precisely why UIW athletic director Brian Wickstrom wanted him in the first place.

Cunningham, a former starting point guard for Gene Keady at Purdue, has found success as a head coach at both Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana, and at NAIA Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

At Carroll, the Fighting Saints won only two games in 2012-13, the year before Cunningham arrived. In his last two seasons, they won 29 and 28, respectively.

“I have been through a rebuilding process before,” Cunningham said. “So, I’m confident we can build a program (at UIW) that alumni and current students and fans can be proud of and can celebrate. That’s certainly the goal.”

In Saturday’s national semifinals at the Alamodome, Loyola-Chicago will take on Michigan, before Philadelphia-based Villanova battles against Kansas.

Some might suggest that it’s a good omen for Cunningham that two Catholic schools from urban areas have advanced to play at the dome this week, his first on the job at UIW.

Though Cunningham smiled at the question, he wasn’t buying into that line of thinking. He just said it shows that every school has an opportunity to succeed with hard work.

“Being from Northwest Indiana and having lived in Chicago for several years, you know, I know Loyola and its background and kind of its general story quite well,” he said. “To think that it’s in the Final Four in 2018 is unbelievable.

“I think it just represents opportunity. It’s not easy. What they’re doing is out of this world, and I’m sure they feel great about it, as they should.”

A former history teacher at DePaul, in Chicago, Cunningham said “it’s awesome” that Loyola’s 98-year-old chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, is getting recognized for her many years of service to the school.

“I think it just serves as a motivator to us,” Cunningham said. “I know, really, so many people across the nation are awed by Sister Jean’s story, and I think it’s a great representation of what Catholic higher education is, at the heart.”

UIW doesn’t have the resources to match Villanova, which plays in the powerful Big East Conference.

Even though UIW has recorded a few important victories on the basketball court over the past few years under former coach Ken Burmeister, the program lacks the tradition of a Villanova or a Loyola-Chicago, which have both won NCAA titles.

Still, UIW does have the tradition of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, brave souls who came to Texas in 1869 to help set up a hospital to treat victims of cholera, Cunningham said.

The coach also pointed out the accomplishments of Sister Walter Maher, the vice president for Mission and Ministry at UIW, whose background includes work as an administrator in the CHRISTUS Healthcare system.

Like Sister Jean, Sister Walter works with UIW athletes.

Cunningham said it’s important in starting to build his program that it “wave the banner” for Sister Walter and for those who came before her.

“That’s deeply motivating to know that we are part of that story,” the coach said. “Even if it’s just through basketball, we can at least be connected to that larger mission. Again, that’s a great honor.”

Final Four glance: Loyola, Michigan, Villanova, Kansas

Welcome to the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio, from The JB Replay.

The NCAA Final Four is set to tip off Saturday at the Alamodome, with Loyola-Chicago playing Michigan at 5:09 p.m. Villanova takes on Kansas in the second of two national semifinals at 7:49. Here’s a quick glance at each team:

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

Coach: Porter Moser
Conference: Missouri Valley
Record: 32-5
Streak: Won 14 in a row and 21 of 22

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Miami, 64-62; beat Tennessee, 63-62; beat Nevada, 69-68; beat Kansas State, 78-62.

Reasons to believe: With a 98-year-old nun known as Sister Jean cheering them on, the Ramblers called on different players to hit game-deciding shots in the last 10 seconds of their first three tournament games. Loyola then won going away against Kansas State.

Michigan Wolverines

Coach: John Beilein
Conference: Big Ten
Record: 32-7
Streak: Won 13 in a row and 15 of 16

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Montana, 61-47; beat Houston, 64-63; beat Texas A&M, 99-72; beat Florida State, 58-54.

Reasons to believe: Wolverines play tough defense, yielding only 63 points per game. Most of their games are of the grind-it-out style, but they can play fast, as evidenced by a 99-point explosion against Texas A&M in the Sweet 16.

Villanova Wildcats

Coach: Jay Wright
Conference: Big East
Record: 34-4
Streak: Won 9 in a row and 11 of 12

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Radford, 87-61; beat Alabama, 81-58; beat West Virginia, 90-78; beat Texas Tech, 71-59.

Reasons to believe: The Wildcats always seem to have the answers in big moments, most notably point guard Jalon Brunson. Both Brunson and Phil Booth played major roles in ‘Nova’s 2016 national championship.

Kansas Jayhawks

Coach: Bill Self
Conference: Big 12
Record: 31-7
Streak: Won 7 in a row and 12 of 13

NCAA road to San Antonio: Beat Penn, 76-60; beat Seton Hall, 83-79; beat Clemson, 80-76; beat Duke, 85-81, overtime.

Reasons to believe: Jayhawks point guard Devonte’ Graham is playing with supreme confidence. Guards Malik Newman, Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk all hit big shots against Duke. Bill Self has the mojo. He won here in 2008.

Villanova downs Texas Tech to secure another Final Four berth

All that bad mojo affecting top-seeded teams in the NCAA South and West regions didn’t seem to bother the Villanova Wildcats in the East.

No. 1 Villanova capped an impressive 4-0 streak in the tournament with a 71-59 victory over third-seeded Texas Tech Sunday afternoon at Boston.

With the win, the Wildcats earned a berth in the Final Four this week in San Antonio.

It is the second trip to a Texas-based Final Four for Villanova in three years.

The Wildcats won the 2016 title at Houston.

Villanova will play either Kansas or Duke in the semifinals on Saturday at the Alamodome.

For Texas Tech, the loss brought to an end the deepest run in the tournament in school history.

“I told the young guys that we’d be back,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard told CBS television. “I told the seniors thanks for everything.”

Top-seeded Kansas holds off Clemson in NCAA round of 16

The Big 12 champion Kansas Jayhawks scored a Round of 16 victory in the NCAA Tournament Friday with an 80-76 decision over the Clemson Tigers.

Kansas, with a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, held off a furious second-half charge by the fifth-seeded Tigers in the game at Omaha, Nebraska.

Leading by 20 early in the second half, the Jayhawks had to make free throws at the end, and they did, knocking down 5 of 6 in the final minute.

Guard Devonte’ Graham was 4 for 4 in that stretch, including two with 13 seconds left for a six-point lead that put the game away.

As the No. 1 seed in the East Region, the Villanova Wildcats have made a living all season with offensive bursts that leave opponents searching for answers.

Villanova slapped an 11-0 run on fifth-seeded West Virginia in the second half en route to a 90-78 victory in the Round of 16 at Boston.

Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman capped the run with plays that brought Wildcats fans to their feet.

First, Bridges sank a three from the corner. Next, Spellman blocked a West Virginia shot.

On the other end, Spellman trailed the play and followed a miss by Phil Booth for a monster dunk.

Just like that, a six-point deficit for Villanova turned into a 65-60 lead with nine minutes left.

Brunson-led Villanova wins in OT to claim Big East title

Point guard Jalen Brunson scored 31 and forward Mikal Bridges added 25 Saturday night as the Villanova Wildcats beat Providence 76-66 in overtime for the Big East title.

Villanova has been projected as a No. 1 regional seed for the NCAA tournament.

The selection show for the 68-team tournament is set for Sunday at 5 p.m. It will be aired on TBS.

San Antonio is the host city for the Final Four, scheduled March 31 and April 2 at the Alamodome.

Saturday’s scores

(Tournament finals)

Conference USA — Marshall 67, Western Kentucky 66

Big East — Villanova 76, Providence 66, OT

Big 12 — Kansas 81, West Virginia 70

Mountain West — San Diego State 82, New Mexico 75

MAC — Buffalo 76, Toledo 66

America East – Maryland-Baltimore County 65, Vermont 62

MEAC — North Carolina Central 71,, Hampton 63

SWAC — Texas Southern 84, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 69

Conference / NCAA automatic qualifier

Ohio Valley — Murray State (26-5)

Missouri Valley – Loyola-Chicago (28-5)

Big Ten — Michigan (28-7)

Big South — Radford (22-12)

Atlantic Sun — Lipscomb (23-9)

Southern — UNC Greensboro (27-7)

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference — Iona (20-13)

West Coast Conference — Gonzaga (30-4)

Horizon — Wright State (25-9)

Northeast — LIU Brooklyn (18-16)

Colonial Athletic Association — Charleston (26-7)

Summit — South Dakota State (28-6)

Patriot League — Bucknell (25-9)

America East — Maryland-Baltimore County (24-10)

MEAC — North Carolina Central (19-15)

SWAC — Texas Southern (15-19)

Big 12 — Kansas (27-7)

Mountain West — San Diego State (22-10)

Big East — Villanova (30-4)

MAC — Buffalo (26-8)

Conference USA — Marshall (24-10)