Golden: Jay Wright’s elite Villanova offense shoots KU out of the gym

Could you imagine this Villanova missing 21 of 25 three-point attempts in a basketball game?

Yeah, me neither.

It seems like forever ago, but the Wildcats struggled mightily from distance in their Elite Eight win over Texas Tech. Those Boston rims were pretty stingy and Nova was in a real tussle with a tough-minded Red Raider team that was ranked in the top-10 at several points of the season.

They survived, advanced then put a three-point pasting on the class of the Big 12 in the Final Four nightcap.

With the venue switched to the San Antonio, the Wildcats couldn’t miss from downtown. Even their big buys were knocking them down. All told, the Wildcats set a Final-Four record 18 made three-pointers in a 95-79 win over Kansas.

After the Jayhawks fell behind 22-4 four minutes in, there was a thought that the 69,000-seat Alamodome wasn’t big enough to hold this team’s shooting range. It’s one thing to lose to a team that gets hot from three-point range but it’s quite another to lose to a three-point shooting team that takes it up another level. The Wildcats were making them from the Riverwalk, the Alamo and whatever San Antonio landmark you care to mention.

“Well, that was just one of those nights,” said Jay Wright. “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.”

Free throws? Who needs free throws? Villanova didn’t even attempt one until there was 8:47 remaining and by then, it was all but over.

The Villanova coach said he felt bad for Kansas because his team had been on the receiving end of a three-point thrashing, albeit on a smaller stage. In 2014, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge combined for 14 of the team’s 21 treys in a 96-68 win. It was Creighton’s first year in the Big East and that performance made a lasting impression on Wright, who would lead the Wildcats to a national title tw0 years later.

“They lit us up,” Wright said. “Twice.”

It was Nova doing all the lighting up Saturday. With about 10 minutes the Alamodome scoreboards circling the stands went around the time Eric Paschall was knocking down his fourth three. They didn’t come back on. You can say the Wildcats shot the lights out on their way to eliminating a third straight Big 12 opponent.

And it wasn’t just any opponent. While KU coach Bill Self said his team’s up-and-down regular-season performances finally manifested themselves at the worst time, it’s difficult to imagine any college basketball team keeping pace with Villanova on this night. Kansas guards Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman combined for 44 points and six assists and on most nights, that’s a Jayhawk win. Not so in the national semis.

“It’s tough especially when most of the points are coming from the three-point line,” Newman said. “You put yourself in a deep hole and it’s tough to climb out.”

The question entering the finale against Michigan has revolve around this team possibly home-running its way to a second national title three years. The answer is yes because the Cats have already shown an ability to figure out ways to win when the triples aren’t falling. Michigan’s bigs will do a better job of closing out on Paschall and Omari Spellman but there are concerns about the Wolverines shooting struggles against Loyola. Big Blue won but was only 7-of-28 from distance.

Wright’s other title team didn’t seem as dependent on threes as this one but that team was nowhere near as proficient from the money line.

“It’s our best offensive team,” Wright said. “We’ve had some good ones. This is definitely our best.”

Kansas would agree.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Golden’s Nuggets: Longhorns have newfound prosperity … don’t they?
Golden’s Nuggets: Longhorns have newfound prosperity … don’t they?

Texas and prosperity. The two have been mutually exclusive in recent years. Until now. Prosperity is a good thing, even if it’s in a small sample like we’ve witnessed over the past couple of weeks. The Longhorns will take it given what’s gone down on the Forty Acres over the past four seasons. The sudden success led to an interesting...
UIL to consider how Ann Richards School would appeal classification
UIL to consider how Ann Richards School would appeal classification

The volleyball team at Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders has had to temper its expectations this season. A program that has made the playoffs every season dating back to 2012 is 3-6 through the first round of district play, in eighth place out of 10 schools. The reason has less to do with a change in skill level than it does with the competition...
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond thinks fondly of Arkansas
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond thinks fondly of Arkansas

Kellen Mond’s first real, bona fide, competitive game came this time a year ago, when Texas A&M faced Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The contest was the Aggies SEC opener, and it no longer mattered that Mond was a freshman struggling to learn an offense and lead a team as the anointed starter recovered from ankle surgery. Mond rushed...
Bohls: So how hot is Shaka Smart’s seat? Not very, according to his boss
Bohls: So how hot is Shaka Smart’s seat? Not very, according to his boss

So we’ll just cut to the chase. Now that Tom Herman is safely out of the woods, we turn our attention to Shaka Smart, who just so happened to show up for his preseason press conference at Bellmont Hall on Monday. So, Shaka, just how hot is your seat? “I don’t sit down,” the fourth-year Texas basketball coach said...
Having won three straight, Texas coach Tom Herman breezing through Mondays now
Having won three straight, Texas coach Tom Herman breezing through Mondays now

You can always gauge the mood of the Texas football program by the Monday press conference. Coach Tom Herman was trapped in a fox hole after the season-opening loss to Maryland. The next week, following a close win over Tulsa, reporters were asking Herman if he’s arrogant. Funny how the mood changes after back-to-back wins over...
More Stories