The Kansas Jayhawks are one win away from college basketball and March Madness immortality. Even though they’re undoubtedly riding high following their Final Four win over Villanova, Kansas knows this isn’t the end of the yellow brick road just yet.
There’s one more game, and the vaunted North Carolina Tar Heels will be on the other side of that National Championship matchup.
Kansas is ready, though. They didn’t become Jayhawks to win consolation prizes.
Villanova was no match in the Final Four matchup against Kansas
Perhaps the Wildcats ran out of gas after a grueling run that saw them take on and beat the likes of No. 7 Ohio State, No. 11 Michigan, and No. 5 Houston en route to the Final Four. Those were three hard-nosed squads that made Villanova battle for every win. The loss of Justin Moore at the end of the Elite Eight win also can’t be undersold. The Wildcats needed another scorer, and he was their second-leading scorer up to that point in the season.
With Moore out with a torn Achilles, Kansas came out of the gate swinging. The Jayhawks didn’t give Villanova senior point guard Collin Gillespie any room to operate initially, and they shot the ball lights-out on the offensive end.
Kansas jumped out to 10-0 lead and never really looked back. Sure, there were times when Villanova clawed back as any good team does. Still, Kansas went into halftime up 40-29, and when Villanova got within six points with 6:10 to go in the second half, the Wildcats stepped up and shut the door.
Christian Braun came up clutch for the Jayhawks in the second half
Junior guard Christian Braun scored 10 points in the game, but eight of those came in the final six minutes, including two back-breaking three-point shots. The first came with the Wildcats up 69-59. He flashed to the ball well beyond the three-point line and put up a jump-stop, fadeaway three with two seconds left on the shot clock.
Braun found nothing but the bottom and essentially iced the game for the Jayhawks at that moment, putting them up 71-59 with 3:58 to go.
“It was a late shot clock. And I had hit one before that, so I had nothing to lose, honestly. Just threw one up there and it went in,” he recalled, according to 247Sports.
If that wasn’t the dagger, his three-pointer with 3:28 that put Kansas up 75-59 did the trick.
Though David McCormack led the way for Kansas with 25 points and nine rebounds and Ochai Agbaji put up 21 and went 6-of-7 from downtown, Braun found a way to slam the door shut for the Jayhawks.
He also provided the most memorable quote of the night after the game, talking about how Kansas is not satisfied with just the Final Four victory.
“In the Elite Eight we were saying we come to Kansas for big games but you don’t come to Kansas to play the Elite Eight. Then we win the Final Four game and we’re saying we don’t come to Kansas to win the Final Four, we came to win the national championship,” Braun said.
The Jayhawks have a ‘one more’ attitude that will make them tough for UNC to beat
It was a massive win for Kansas. Not only are the Jayhawks now one win away from securing Bill Self his second national championship, but the win over Villanova was redemptive in a sense.
The two programs met in the Final Four in 2018, with Villanova walking away with an impressive 16-point win. The Wildcats went on to beat the Michigan Wolverines in the National Championship that season.
The difference in this Final Four matchup? You guessed it: 16-points. This time, though, the Jayhawks were on the winning side.
“I think that we came out ready to play. And it was kind of a little bit of a reversal — not near to the extent — but a reversal of ’18 in that we really couldn’t do much wrong there early and we caught a few breaks and built a lead,” Self said after the game, per 247Sports.
As Kansas ran into the locker room and celebrated the Final Four victory, there was one phrase that came across loud and clear in the melee. No matter who was saying it, and multiple players were, it was easy to pinpoint the Jayhawks’ focus, even after the massive win over Villanova.
“Everybody has that mindset. That’s why everybody is saying ‘one more,’ and that’s before the tunnel.,” Braun said. “On the court that’s what everybody’s saying, one more. So everybody has the same mindset.”
For as good as UNC looked in the nightcap against Duke not much later, that focus from the Jayhawks is going to make them very tough for the Tar Heels to beat.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.
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