PHILADELPHIA – Kansas was unable to hold onto a four-point advantage with under two minutes to play as the No. 1 Jayhawks fell to No. 18/14 Villanova, 56-55, Saturday afternoon inside Wells Fargo Center. Sophomore Devon Dotson led KU in scoring with 15 points, but was unable to connect on the potential game-winner as time expired as the Wildcats snapped the Jayhawks’ nine-game winning streak.
The loss dropped Kansas to 9-2 on the year, while Villanova improved to 9-2 in its 2019-20 campaign.
After finding itself trailing by as much as eight points in the second half, Kansas managed to fight back and claim a four-point lead with less than two minutes to play in regulation. Freshman Christian Braun drove to the bucket and converted on a lay-up for two of his six points on the day, to give his team a 55-51 lead with 1:49 remaining.
But those would be the Jayhawks’ last points of the day, as Villanova scored five unanswered points in the final 67 seconds to regain the advantage, the game’s 14th and final lead change. KU had a chance to win with the game’s final possession. Dotson took the ball to the rim and put up a fallaway jumper as time expired, however, the ball failed to draw rim as the Wildcats sealed the victory, 56-55.
Both squads struggled on the offensive end over the first 20 minutes of action. KU connected on just 37% (10-for-27) of its field-goal tries in the first half, but held the Wildcats to just 29% (9-for-31) as neither side managed to pull away from the other. After KU jumped out to an 11-5 lead over the first seven minutes of the game, Villanova responded with an 8-0 run to claim a one-point lead, 15-14, into the final eight minutes of the half. Both teams combined for just seven field goals in the remainder of the half as the Jayhawks and Wildcats headed to the locker rooms knotted up at 23-23.
A 10-0 Wildcat run early in the second half helped the home side jump out to a 35-27 lead just over five minutes after the restart. The eight-point deficit did little to discourage the Jayhawks though, as KU responded with a 10-2 spurt of its own. Braun’s lay-up at the 10:45 mark leveled the score at 37-37 as both teams’ shooters began to warm-up.
After mostly poor shooting over the first three-quarters of the day, the Jayhawks and Wildcats combined to hit 17-of-34 shots over the final 11 minutes of regulation, which included a 9-of-15 clip from KU. Villanova’s Jermaine Samuels hit back-to-back buckets to hand the Wildcats a 48-44 lead with just over seven minutes to go, but KU once again used an impressive stretch of inside scoring to regain control of the game. The Jayhawks put together an 11-3 run, all with points coming in the paint, to pull KU in front as the game headed into its final minutes. However, the Wildcats held KU scoreless over the final 1:49 to come back and claim the win.
Dotson led KU in scoring for the 16th time this season, finishing with 15 points and pulling down a season-high seven rebounds. Senior Udoka Azubuike posted his fourth double-double of the season, tallying 12 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Ochai Agbaji was the third Jayhawk to hit double-figure scoring, adding 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
KU closed the game with a 43.6 percent clip from the field, its lowest of the season, but held Villanova to 34.9 percent shooting. It marked the seventh time this season the Jayhawks have held their opponent to under 40 percent.
The Jayhawks will close out the calendar year with a trip to the west coast for a battle against the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, Dec. 29. Tipoff from Maples Pavilion is slated for 2 p.m. (CT) on ABC.
The Jayhawks and Cardinal will meet for the 15th time overall and the fifth time since 2014. KU leads the series 11- 3. Kansas has won three-straight against Stanford, who is coached by former Jayhawk guard Jerod Haase, including last season’s 90-84 overtime win in Lawrence.