• The Kansas Jayhawks outlasted Kentucky in Houston Sunday evening to advance to their second Final Four in three seasons. Kansas will face tournament nemesis #2 Villanova (7:48 Saturday/CBS), who won the West region in Los Angeles, 59-58 over #4 Oregon. Villanova eliminated Kansas in the 2018 Final Four and the 2016 Elite Eight. The Wildcats won the NCAA championship both seasons.

    In a game that saw 14 lead changes, and some late game drama, Jayhawks’ sophomore David McCormack had the best game of his career, leading Kansas to a hard-fought 68-65 win over the SEC champ Kentucky.

    McCormack, filling in for injured KU senior center Udoka Azubuike, scored 21 points on 9-11 shooting and had 11 rebounds for his second career double-double.

    But it was a big time steal by senior Devon Dotson that sealed the game in the last 10 seconds. With KU leading 66-65, Dotson, who finished with 14 points, intercepted a UK pass from Ashton Hagans intended for big man Nick Richards. Dotson was then fouled by Hagans. Dotson made both free throws, stretching the KU lead to three. Kentucky inbounded the ball with four seconds left, but Hagans mishandled the ball and was not able recover in time to attempt a shot.

    Kansas appeared to be in a favorable position with 1:10 left. KU freshman Christian Braun drilled his fourth three pointer of the game to give Kansas a 66-59 lead. Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley, who led the Wildcats with 22 points, then hit a three pointer over senior transfer Isaiah Moss at the :50 second mark. With a three point lead, Kentucky fouled McCormack, who missed the front end of a one and one, after making all three of his prior attempts on the night.

    With time running out on the possession, Richards hit his first three pointer of the season, a desperation heave as the shot clock expired, that banked in from the wing, cutting the KU lead to a single point. The ball was then inbounded to junior Marcus Garrett, who was called for traveling after getting tangled up with UK freshman Tyrese Maxey.

    But Kentucky couldn’t convert as Dotson stopped UK with his timely theft and resulting free throws.

    Kentucky coach John Calipari thought Dotson had traveled after the late game steal. “It sure looked like it to me, that his feet shuffled before dribbling,” said Calipari, “but we seemed to be in a fight on two fronts all night (referring to the officiating).”

    For his part, KU coach Bill Self was unmoved. “Is that what he said? Well, I’m glad we focused on our jobs and took care of business. What was the foul differential? We weren’t even in the bonus until late. It seemed like they were in the double-bonus the entire second half,” Self said.

    KU was whistled for five fouls in the first five minutes of the second half. Kentucky had 12 free throw attempts in the second half to KU’s five. Richards added 14 points for UK and was six of seven from the line.

    It was Kansas’ tenacity on the defensive end, though, that seemed to turn the game. In a critical stretch in the first half, when Kansas trailed by six and seemed lethargic, McCormack recorded a block on Richards, which Kansas converted to points. On the next two possessions, Kansas for Kentucky in to attempts late in the shot clock. Following both possessions, McCormack scored near that basket, one on at thunderous dunk, and the game was tied at the 4:40 mark of the first half, 22-22. After a UK free throw by Hagans, Kansas scored on a dunk by sophomore Ochai Agbaji. The teams then traded the lead six more times before arriving at half in a 35-35 tie.

    Despite the win, Coach Self was less than pleased with Moss. “I’m not sure what he’s thinking out there (defending Quickley). We’re out of position then barely contest the shot. We really need more.” Moss played sparingly, in favor of freshman Braun, after late game errors early in the tournament. Self inserted Moss at the 2:10 mark of the second half after Agbagi fouled out. Moss played eight minutes in the game.

    The second half was marked by a similar game flow with no team having a lead of more than three points until Kansas stretched to six inside 1:30.

    In other Elite Eight action, #4 Michigan St. won the Midwest region Saturday in overtime, besting #2 San Diego St., 71-66. Michigan St. tied the game late on a three point by Cassius Winston. Up three with eight seconds left, SDSU chose not to foul and Winston hit a corner three sending the game into overtime.

    The Spartans will play the #1 Dayton Flyers (5:12 Saturday/CBS) in the first Final Four game in Atlanta. Dayton cruised to an easy 77-58 win over outmatched Virginia. Obi Toppin, the likely national player of the year, scored a tournament high 37 points. Dayton will be making their second Final Four appearance.

  • @HighEliteMajor I hoped Moss would show up. I thought this was the one. Villanova is going to be a harder matchup for him if he’s guarding like he did today. Braun is the hero we need! Ice cold. Do you guys still think we get four years of him?

    I’d love to see our d dictate the way the next one is played. This is the game I most wanted to see Doke in! If he can defend the arc against Nova like he has done all year, we can feed the big fella on the other end.

    Also, I’m flat out shocked that Virginia laid an egg like they did against Dayton. Their defense is way better than that. Disappointing. But they didn’t have the firepower on the offensive side to go all the way.

  • Can’t wait to see what your imagination has for us next!

  • Great series. I foresee the KU-Michigan St final that many of us have dreaded (although I’m not one of them).

  • @ajvan MSU is the one team in this whole thing I feared the most. They were playing very well at the end of the regular season.

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