'Cats WIN ?⚪️
National Championship Game Bound! #LetsMarchNova pic.twitter.com/RZFtXz00yY
— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) April 1, 2018
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
Devonte' Graham is shooting 50% from the field and has a team-high 16 points. We take a timeout with 13:59 to play and #KUbball trails the Wildcats 62-42 pic.twitter.com/4puoK2c0ET
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) April 1, 2018