Two historical programs have punched their ticket to the NCAA Championship game as the Final Four concluded last night. The Kansas Jayhawks will look to claim their fourth NCAA title in program history as they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Kansas and North Carolina Advance in Final Four
Kansas Dominates Villanova in the Final Four
The Kansas Jayhawks and Villanova Wildcats opened up the evening in a game that sadly wasn’t very close at the end. Kansas controlled things early, taking a 40-29 lead into the locker room for halftime. A few early turnovers from the Wildcats helped them to dig themselves into a 10-0 run to begin the game. David McCormack and Jalen Wilson led the Kansas offense to build a 19-point lead in the final four minutes of the first half. Villanova clearly missed Justin Moore, who was injured in the final minutes of their Elite Eight victory. The Wildcats endured a poor shooting night from the floor with the team combining 22-57 for the game, good for only 38.6%. Conversely, the Jayhawks shot at a 53.7% success rate, while also hitting 13-24 from deep.
Although the second half was a more competitive one, the Jayhawks still outscored Villanova 40-36. Both teams’ bench units were non-factors in this one. Each team had only five points come from players not in their starting five. Even Remy Martin, a new hero for the Hawks and a favorite story amongst tournament watchers, was quiet in this one. Martin has three points and five rebounds in this one. Villanova battled the whole way through this one. Collin Gillespie led them in scoring with 17 points. Brandon Slater and Caleb Daniels also scored 16 and 13 points respectively in the loss. Jermaine Samuels also played well for the Wildcats, scoring nine points and grabbing seven boards, but it was not enough to keep the short-handed ‘cats in this one.
While McCormack was the Jayhawks leading scorer, Ochai Agbaji was nearly perfect from the field, including 6-7 from beyond the arc on his way to 21 points. Christian Braun and Wilson were also double-digit contributors this evening.
North Carolina Outlasts Duke in Final Four
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has become the biggest story in the tournament to most. Despite an epic Cinderella run from St. Peter’s, Coach K’s final run as the Blue Devil’s head man has taken us to the tournament’s final weekend. To make this occasion even sweeter to some sports historians, coach Hubert Davis and his North Carolina Tar Heels ended St. Peter’s miracle run. This set the stage for a Final Four matchup for the ages.
The first half was a tense and tightly contested 20 minutes. Both teams shot poorly from deep. Duke shot 2-12 and UNC shot 3-13 as neither team could find their rhythm from deep. Duke looked to star Paolo Banchero, who led the team with 10 points and six rebounds in the first half. The Tar Heels followed RJ Davis’s lead as he paced the team with 14 points before the break. Duke’s second unit outscored UNC’s bench 14-0 as the Blue Devils took a 37-34 lead into the break.
The second half started with a big run from North Carolina, who took the lead behind Caleb Love’s impressive offensive output. Duke bounced back to tie the game at 55 halfway through the second. Both teams battled as this game saw over 18 lead changes heading into the final minutes. UNC was seeming dealt a crucial blow when Armando Bacot, who has had a double-double in every game so far this tournament, rolled his ankle with about five minutes left in the game. This unfortunate injury caused the Tar Heels to make their first substitution of the second half. The big man made a triumphant return a few minutes later, securing his 20th rebound of the game. He would finish the game with 11 points and 21 rebounds.
North Carolina pulled out the win late behind a deep three from Love.
One Shining Moment
Kansas and North Carolina will square off in a must-see National Championship game on Monday night.
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