• Atlanta – Kansas got a surprise boost from a player that has seen very little action, and that boost has propelled the Jayhawks to a title game match-up against Michigan St. Monday night in Atlanta.

    Silvio DeSousa, who has averaged just 5.5 minutes a game in the tournament and who has been the subject of NCAA eligibility issues, delivered a career best performance Saturday night. DeSousa, coming off the bench with David McCormack in foul trouble, dropped 22 points on 10 of 11 shooting, and grabbed 12 rebounds, leading KU to a 72-64 win over Villanova.

    “Just amazing,” said Kansas coach Bill Self of DeSousa. “The kid has had rough year, but he has practiced hard and is always ready when I calI his number. What game he had tonight. He couldn’t miss and he was all over the boards. We’re all just so happy for him.”

    DeSousa was emotional after the game. The Jayhawks junior faced a long suspension after scuffle in a January game against Kansas State, that coming after being suspended the entire season of 2018-19 for NCAA rules violations.

    “It has been tough. Real tough. I try to stay positive but it’s been hard,” said DeSousa, choking up after the game, “This just means so much to me. I can’t explain. I can play. I can contribute. It’s been a weird year, but I feel like I stepped up for the team and the coaches who have supported me – and the fans.”

    And boy did he step up. DeSousa scored 7 points in the final four minutes of the game, two of which came at the line with 30 seconds left to make it a three possession game, 70-62, and ice the game. His contributions in the first half, though, seemed to save the game for Kansas.

    Things did not start well for KU as it dug itself a deep hole early. McCormack was whistled for foul on the opening tip. Just after the ball was tossed McCormack swiped at the ball, missed, then after landing swiped again and struck Villanova freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the face. After a review, the call remained standard foul.

    But then, on Villanova’s second possession, McCormack fouled Robinson-Earl on a shot attempt. The foul situation seemed devastating for KU, who was without second team All-American center Udoka Azubuike. The 6’11” senior suited up and warmed up with the team, wearing a thick wrap on his left wrist, but did not play.

    Self then replaced McCormack with senior Isaiah Moss, instead of DeSousa. Earlier in the week, there had been speculation that KU might try a five guard line, as used by the NBA’s Houston Rockets. That five guard line up didn’t work out so well for Kansas.

    “It was a disaster. And that might be kind,” said Self. “We were just messed up defensively. I thought we could use that to play a little matchup zone on the perimeter, but we got eaten alive down low. Bad rotation. We had some guys who just could get it together. I thought we were ready, but obviously not.”

    Down 3-0 when McCormack was removed with two fouls, Villanova then went on an 12-2 run. Villanova forward Saddiq Bay had two dunks during the stretch, junior Connor Gillespie had a three pointer and a pair of two point buckets as well.

    Self then inserted freshman Tristan Enaruna for Moss, bypassing DeSousa, but it was more of the same. KU called timeout at the 13:42 mark, down 20-6. Enter DeSousa – the coach’s third choice to support McCormack.

    “Yea, it took me a while to get it right. But give me enough chances …”, Self joked.

    Coming out of the timeout, Kansas’ play was no joke and the Jayhawks started to click. DeSousa scored 11 of KU’s next 16 points, blocked two shots inside, including sending a Gillespie layup attempt into the stands. Just like that, Kansas was back in it, down only two at 24-22 with 4:52 left in the half.

    Self understood the dire nature of the circumstances. “The game wouldn’t have been over in the first half but we really needed to get going. A team like Villanova can put their foot on your neck and it’s hard to recover. We’ve been there before with these guys.”

    McCormack subbed in for DeSousa at the 3:50 mark of the first half, and picked up his third foul almost immediately. He sat the rest of the half.

    “I can tell you, we knew DeSousa could play. But he wasn’t a big part of our game-plan to be honest,” Villanova coach Jay Wright lamented. “I wish we would have given that more focus. They have so many weapons. The bottom line is he (DeSousa) played a nearly perfect game. I’m happy for the kid. But I’m very disappointed for our guys.”

    Marcus Garrett was a Kansas star as well, snagging 6 steals, 9 rebounds to go with 10 points and a handful of assists. Self gushed about Garrett, the national defensive player of the year. “The absolute best (defensive player) I’ve ever coached. Period. And he does so many other things.” Self said. But Self brushed off the idea that Garrett was the proverbial glue guy. “He’s a player,” Self said.

    The Wildcats had their chances. The 2016 and 2018 title winners tied the game twice in the last 4 minutes. But it was DeSousa that answered each time with baskets near the rim. Villanova was led by Saddiq Bey, who scored 16 points. Gillespie was next with 14, and Robinson-Earl added 11.

    “We beat them earlier in the year and I thought we were in a better spot this time around,” said guard Gillespie. “We were in a great place this weekend it seemed. Really, our three point shooting let us down. They (Kansas) really got after us at the line.”

    McCormack, though in foul trouble, helped out with that defense in the first 10 minutes of the second half, blocking three Wildcats’ shots and scoring five, all while staying out of further foul trouble. But Self went back to DeSousa after Villanova took a 52-51 lead with 9:53 to play. And DeSousa didn’t disappoint.

    “The guy came out and dominated. Just was flat out dominated,” said KU sophomore Devon Dotson, “He’s been a little off this year. I mean, in practice, he’s great. But in the games, it just hasn’t clicked. Tonight it did.”

    Dotson backed up DeSousa’s performance with 15 points and 6 assists. KU freshman Christian Braun was three of five from behind the arc, for 10 points. Kansas held Villanova to five of 20 shooting from three point range.

    Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks will appear in the title game for the third time in Self’s tenure, winning in OT vs. Memphis in 2008, and falling to Kentucky in 2012. Kansas’ opponent, Michigan St., beat Dayton earlier in the evening behind 23 points and 8 rebounds from Cassius Winston. The game will tip-off at 8:22 pm CDT on CBS Monday night.

  • Man I hope Doke heals enough to get on the floor.

  • Wow Marcus! His 6 steals were a game changer. Those steal-sparked fastbreak runs remind me so much of 2008. Can’t say enough about how good this kid is on defense. Both on ball and off ball. I hope we don’t lose him to the draft this year, but there’s no time to think about that now. We’ve got a trophy to win!

  • Finally, Self dodges a Villanova bullet. Yeah Silvio! Now that he’s salvaged his rough season when it mattered most, he can back up the post in the final…as Udoka makes his triumphant return. (fingers crossed)

  • Yippee

  • Our house is predicting Kansas victory. 75-68

Log in to reply