Three down and three to go.
This one wasn’t always pretty and if KU is able to move on to
next weekend and win a national championship this won’t go
down as the most complete game of the bunch, but it might be one of the
best defensive efforts. It was a blue collar effort for Bill Self’s team that did get sloppy down the stretch. Kansas
owned a narrow edge on the boards (33-30), and turned it over 18 times
in the game.
“We didn't finish the game the way we hoped,”
stated Self. “I didn't think the second half we had
much rhythm, in large part due to fouls, substitutions, and some other
But Self knows style points aren’t important this time of the
year and all that matters is that Kansas has more points than its
opponent – that’s why the motto is survive and
Friday Kansas advanced thanks to staunch defense that held a
perimeter-oriented Villanova team to just 57 points on 35.3 percent
shooting. Scottie Reynolds, the defensive focal point coming in, was
held to just 11 points on 4-13 shooting. Russell Robinson earned the
right to guard Reynolds for most of the night and embraced the
challenge of locking down another key player. But the senior was also a
factor on the offensive end and was at the heart of an important 19-6
first half run. Robinson ended the game with 15 points and five
‘I thought Russell was the player of the game, he and Sasha
(Kaun),” continued Self. “But I thought Russell, he
made shots early, which is always a bonus when Russell does that. I
thought he was very good offensively for us. But defensively he did a
fabulous job on Scottie.
“I could just tell going into the game, he was probably as
focused as I'd seen him in a long, long time - maybe as I've ever seen
him. I was really happy for him.”
“On ball screens, they were double-teaming, trying to get the
ball out of my hands. A lot of times if I were to drive it, they were
bringing a big or a guard to get the ball out of my hands,”
admitted Reynolds. “And sometimes I was just forcing the
issue a little bit too much trying to get into the lane, trying to find
The Nova guards, particularly Reynolds, were lauded heading into the
game but after the game it was about the damage done by KU’s
guards was irreparable. 52 of KU’s points came from the guard
position, and on the other end, the Jayhawks forced eight steals.
“What we feared was not being able to score. We were going to
need to make threes against them. We needed Scottie and Dante
(Cunningham) to score. They just did a great job defensively. They
really did. We give them a lot of credit,” Villanova head
coach Jay Wright said.
Offensively the Jayhawks devastated the Wildcats by throwing over the
top of the defense for bunch of highlight reel dunks, and hitting some
“I didn't think we were that bad defensively in the first
half, I really didn't,” said Wright. Those seven threes, even
the one at the end of the half, you know, (Jeremy) Case comes in, takes
one shot, drills a three. Scottie was right there. They're just a good
team. They're playing very well right now. They're playing with great
confidence. Everyone's filling their role.”
Kansas has hung its hat on the defensive end of the floor all season
and Davidson and Stephon Curry will again present a challenge for a
battle-tested KU defense but the Jayhawks know – one more win
moves them closer to their national championship aspirations.
-Where this game was going to be played acted as a sidebar story all
week. With all the pre-game chatter about Ford Field’s unique
dome-setting the most noticeable part of it was the empty seats during
a Sweet 16 game between two teams from power conferences that appeared
to lack the zest of a critical tournament game.
“The atmosphere was pretty great. There were a lot of empty
seats, though. It's not the like the Field House. But it was pretty
good,” according to Kansas junior Brandon Rush who led the
team in scoring with 16 points.
-The respect between Wright and Self was clearly evident all week.
Wright was extremely complimentary to Kansas after the game saying,
“We played a great team. We all, we really respect the Kansas
team. I have great respect for Bill. I just saw him out there and told
him he's got a lot of big-time players that play the game the right
way. They play for Kansas. They don't play for the name on the back of
their jersey. It was very evident tonight.”
- Self will now make his fifth appearance in the Elite 8, his third
with Kansas, and as expected was asked about lessons learned from the
four prior appearances.
“I think the biggest thing that I've learned is you really
have to manage Saturday and their sleep as well as you can, to make
sure we're as fresh as we can be on Sunday, which I think we'll be. I
think I've worked guys too hard in the past on the off day.”
It’s clearly a lesson that a lot of head coaches have learned
about the latter stages of the season and the good news for Self is
that only one player amassed more than 30 minutes on Friday (Robinson
played 33). KU should have a fresh mind and fresh legs for
Sunday’s 5:40pm ET matchup with Davidson.
Kansas On To Elite Eight
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