'It was awful': No. 1 Kansas falters late in 56-55 loss at No. 18 Villanova

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks off the court after losing an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Philadelphia. Villanova won 56-55. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia — Kansas coach Bill Self needed just three words to communicate his thoughts on his team’s late-game execution in Saturday’s 56-55 loss to No. 18 Villanova at Wells Fargo Center.

“It was awful,” Self noted.

After a grind-it-out affair in which both teams shoot less than 44% and Villanova attempted a school-record 41 3-pointers, the top-ranked Jayhawks found themselves up four with the ball and 71 seconds to play, yet somehow still found a way to lose it.

Three low-percentage plays in what Villanova guard Collin Gillespie referred to as “The Wildcat Minute,” — all of which went Nova’s way — led to the Jayhawks’ second loss of the season and a second consecutive December where they fell as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation on the road in the final game before the holiday break.

The first came when sophomore point guard Devon Dotson had his pocket picked near mid-court by Gillespie.

The steal and layup cut KU’s lead to 55-53. But even at that point the Jayhawks (9-2) still had the upper hand.

In hindsight, Self said he wished Dotson would have fouled Gillespie in the open floor, resulting in a sideline out-of-bounds situation instead of two easy points because the Jayhawks had just three team fouls at the time.

“But kids don’t think like that,” Self noted. “So that’s OK.”

Next came a jumbled possession that ended with a missed jumper by David McCormack (3-of-7 on the day) and that gave the Wildcats (9-2) an opportunity to tie or take the lead.

Although attempting a 2-pointer or trying to get to the free throw line certainly was in play, nearly everyone in the building knew the 3-pointer was coming. Including Self, who lamented his team’s understanding of that very thing following Saturday’s loss.

“We knew we had to take the 3s that were available to us,” Villanova coach Jay Wright, noting KU’s size in the paint made it tough around the rim. “And we were going to have to live and die with it.”

Added Self of the game-winning triple by Villanova junior Jermaine Samuels over a flat-footed Dotson: “It’s an easy switch. You’re up two with under 30 (seconds) left so the worst you can do is play for the last shot to win it even if they make a two. And we let them shoot a 3.”

The final miscue that sealed KU’s fate came at the free throw line, where Dotson, a 85.3% free throw shooter entering Saturday, missed the front end of a one-and-one situation that could have tied the game or led to Kansas taking the lead.

Villanova grabbed the rebound with 17 seconds to play and then did its best to meltdown in the game’s final seconds.

After three fouls by Kansas and one timeout by each team, Dotson forced a turnover on Villanova’s inbounds play of the day.

“We kind of ran out of our plays, honestly,” Wright said. “We have three different baseline press offenses and we ran all three. I don’t think I’ve ever been in that situation. Credit them the most.”

KU’s late defensive stand set up an opportunity for Dotson to erase his rough final minute by hitting the game-winning shot, but his off-balanced driving fadeaway just outside of the paint clanged off the glass and off the rim as the final horn sounded.

Related document

Box score: Villanova 56, Kansas 55 ( .PDF )

“Just take it and go,” was the way Self described the final 11 seconds, which also featured Azubuike unable to check in because officials said he did not go far enough down to the scorer’s table when trying to get back on the floor.

“We were just trying to get Dot with his right hand going downhill,” Self explained. “He actually got a decent look. But that was about the best I thought we could hope for in that situation.”

The late collapse overshadowed what had been a strong finish for the Jayhawks.

After a 23-all tie at the half, Villanova took control early in the second half by finding its range and rhythm from the outside.

An 8-0 run by the Wildcats early in the second half put the Jayhawks in a tough spot, down eight with the crowd breathing down their necks.

But after the under-16 media timeout, Self went with four guards and KU quickly found its offense. The Jayhawks scored 10 of the next 12 points, all on drives to the rim, to pull back within two.

“I brought the guys in and I was like, ‘Just keep going downhill,’” sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji said after the loss. “That’s what we were going to and that’s what was working, being more aggressive, really. Going out there and getting fouls.”

Added Dotson, who led Kansas with 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting, including a 4-of-7 clip at the free throw line: “In the first half there weren’t a lot of driving lanes or opportunities to attack. I just tried to stay in attack mode, stay aggressive and my teammates were on me and coaches were on me, (telling me) to just be aggressive and that’s what I tried to do.”

Freshman guard Christian Braun played a key role in six of those Kansas points during the Jayhawks’ 17-8 run that erased Villanova’s eight-point lead.

He drove hard for a right-handed runner off the glass to put a stop to the Nova run on one possession and drove it again on the next KU possession to force a breakdown by the Villanova D that led to an Agbaji lay-in.

Braun’s drive down the lane that produced two more points after a goaltending call on Villanova tied the game at 37 and KU actually went ahead for a few seconds following a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Dotson.

Neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way, and the sellout crowd of 20,706 was treated to a wild finish that left the home fans happy and the Jayhawks, who played the final 27 minutes of this one without junior guard Marcus Garrett, wishing one or two bounces had gone the other way.

“Not discouraged at all,” said Self, pointing to the strong play of freshmen Braun and Tristan Enaruna in Garrett’s absence as reasons his team “got better today.” “I hate that we lost, but I’m not discouraged.”

His players agreed.

“Everything we can take away from the game we are,” McCormack said. “And we’re just going to become better.”

Added Dotson: “It’s tough. I mean, you can’t dwell on it. You can learn from it. But we’ve got to move forward and onto the next.”

After another week off, the Jayhawks return to the road next Sunday, when they travel to Stanford to take on the Cardinal before the start of Big 12 play in early January.

Comments

Dane Pratt

It will be a long plane ride home for Devon. Turnover, missed free throw and missed shot to win all in about 70 seconds. Not the way to close out a game when you have the ball with a four point lead.

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

NBA is in his head. But if he plays like Graham - play for the joy of the game and the team, Dotson will be a better player.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

Agree, Devon had a rough time down the stretch. Of all of our players, he's the one I would want at the line. And him getting pick pocketed again was highly unusual. But he did so much more for us, you just have to move on. I thought we responded pretty well without Marcus. Moss going 0-3 and Ochai 1-4 from beyond the arc also hurt. Just one of those games, but on the road at a ranked team's house, I almost feel like the Duke loss. I think we would come back and beat both teams next time out.

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

Agreed, but WE NEED MARCUS to win.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

It's inconceivable to me that one coach can be as successful against Bill Self as Jay Wright has been in the decade of the 2010s. There was the loss in the Battle for Atlantis in 2013. There was that maddening loss in the 2016 Elite Eight. There was the 2018 Final Four game where we never had a chance. And now, this.

The only KU win over Nova in that stretch was last year's nailbiter in Lawrence.

To quote Bugs Bunny in the 1943 cartoon "Tortoise Wins By A Hare",

"HOW DOES THAT MORON DO IT???"

(And no, folks, I know Jay Wright is not a moron; I'm just exasperated about the latest loss to Villanova. The only thing worse than being Villanova's bitch is being Iowa State's bitch in the Big 12 Tournament.)

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

We beat Nova in route to a National Title in 2008. That's gotta be worth something.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

True, but that didn't take place in the decade of the 2010s, which is what I was talking about.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Robert Brock

Not all bad news. The pro scouts are telling us that Devon needs to stay in school another year.

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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Matt Tait

Yeah, but will he?

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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Jeff Foster

I think that's been pretty obvious so far this year. His D is OK, but for his size it's gotta be great in the NBA. I think his passing has been just OK and he's had more TO's than a point should be at this level IMO. He can finish, he's fast, but can he really play at the next level? I feel the same about Dok, he's got nothing outside of 5 feet and he'll be playing against guys his own size. Also not sure of his stamina at that level night after night. My guess is that Dotson goes anyway and takes the chance. If nothing else, he can make a ton of $$ in Euro, that's worked out well for a lot of great college players that can't quite find a spot in the NBA.

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

What do you guys smokin'? Not trying to sound negative here. He is no Graham, he's no Trae, he hasn't proven anything rather than his quickness. Like you said, his D is so so, his 3s, not bad, but he has no court vision. Can't play in the league with just speed.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Jeff Kallmeyer

Not one of Dotson's better games, maybe he had going back to Florida and visiting family on his mind.

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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Armen Kurdian

I am really, really, really, REALLY starting to hate Villanova. I had to live there for three years!

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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David Robinett

We are so focused on getting it inside that our guys are AFRAID to shoot a three.

1 month, 4 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

JW: keep taking those shots!!

BS: you miss, you're benched!! We good??

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

What I dont' get is this: http://www2.kusports.com/photos/galle...
You're in the Jayhawks' turf. If you're a Cat, GTFO!!!!

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Drew Doerfler

ok, i hate losing to Villanova...self got completely outcoached by Wright once again....see the trend here? we have more talent.....number 2.....the 2 big lineup is atrocious...it's not getting any better. do our bigs dominate when then are in there? not even a little...and we give up wide open 3 after wide open 3....if Villanova was making their wide open 3's, they would have blown us out. .... I feel for Dotson, in our 2 losses he has just been terrible....and he lost us this game in the last 2 minutes......did you notice the 2 freshman in the game at the end (and i thought they did really well). Self has no faith in Moss right now at all....Moss does not help this team in the least....we NEED 3 point shooting if we are going to make a run in the tournament.....god, i hate getting beaten by Villanova...it would be nice if we could actually beat a team with name recognition this year

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

"we NEED 3 point shooting if we are going to make a run in the tournament..." - good luck with that. you heard coach sayin', it's like the team is limited to only take 15 3s. That's..that's all folks!!

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Allin Herring

Not sure I want to put as much blame on Dotson as I do Self! Why were we slowing the ball down with 3 minutes left in the game only to get our pocket picked? We had the advantage and we needed to keep our usual offense going. That was not Dotson's call it was Self's. Then he had them do it two more times. And the play with 11 seconds left was completely stupid passing the ball around the key please! Lets face it Jay Wright has it all over Self!!
Also 4-10 from frees did not help!! Moss was no help and I am beginning to wonder why KU put so much effort into DeSousa as there just not much there.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Tony Bandle

Random Thoughts:

1] I'll take the high road and look at the glass half full. We've lost two games by a total of three points to two Top Twenty teams on the road while playing our two worst games by far. We will get better.

2] Years ago, I watched Ryan Robertson brother's St.Louis University team embarrass KU in a similar 'game before Xmas Break" debacle. Horrific scheduling.

3] First game with the #1 Target on our back, on the road against a ranked opponent, before Xmas break, against a rare coach with a winning record against Bill Self....was anyone really surprised at a loss......I wasn't!!

4] Weekly, make the team watch the videos of the 'Nova and Duke games for the rest of the season to remind them of what the must not fall back into.

5] The only Number One Ranking that counts is the one on Monday, April 6, 2020 about 11:00 est.

6] I will agree with everyone on one thing...... F### 'Nova!!!

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

1] agreed, add Braun's development to your half-full-glass. We need this kid. Moss is hit and miss, but Braun has IQ, not only just spot-up shooter. Watch him, he can grow into another prolific scorer. With court-vision, too.

3] we played like with 4 men, with Marcus sidelined. it's no surprise we lost to Cats when he's out. it'll be a surprise if we can win each game WITHOUT MARCUS from hereon.

4] I would rather have our team drills 3pt/FT shooting. 4/1-motion will not work without better 3-pt shooters. As we saw during the game. coach BS live and die with 4/1-motion. He got beat by a better 4/1 execution, ironically.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

BTW, Jay's recipe to beat Self: 40!! Take 40 3s. Got his bragging right twice in a row..

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Micky Baker

It was more than just down the stretch. Devon had a bad shooting day and Doke did too. We take care of business with the easy shots during the game and Nova would have never had a lead in the second half or been close enough in the last minute to have a chance. The boys should want this one back, but it is what it is. For the most part we played pretty good defense, but we couldn't score when we got the ball to the rack. We didn't make free throws during the game or at the end. This is one we should have won, but it will be a learning experience for the guys. And I think it might be a good thing to not have the number 1 team target on our backs.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

To quote Kirk Hinrich after the 2001-02 Jayhawks pissed away the #1 ranking in a 10-point loss to UCLA, "Maybe this team can't be on top. Obviously we can't handle it."

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Mallory Briggans

Devon will win more games for us than lose .......but this was clearly on him .When he got
"Pappased" that was what gave them the opening to close out the way they did .
And again Bill gets out coached ......it was obvious that Villanova was going slow down the game .......so we played right into they re hands by playing slow .....they put JRE on Dok and we couldn't take advantage of that ....Dok has shown his ability to pass out of a double team to Mccormack who had size ......never happened . We lost that game in the first half we missed to many Bunnies ....we were up 7 and could have been up easily 15 .....but we didnt execute and it shouldnt have never been that close .

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

You’re probably right but Devon got his pocket picked in the closing seconds of the OT against Dayton that gave the Flyers a chance to tie. In each of the three games that matter most (Duke, Dayton and Villanova) we turned it over at a crucial time. We won’t fare well come March if we can’t protect the ball in the closing minutes.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Carolyn Hunzicker

Kansas has NO out side shooters NONE that you can count on....Moss was open

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

agree, we are very iffy beyond the arc. Moss and Ochi "can" get hot, but nothing you could count on.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Carolyn Hunzicker

Iam seeing a couple of I ME Players

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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