Villanova machine puts the Wildcats in another national title game

SAN ANTONIO -- Saturday night was historic for Villanova.

The Wildcats set a Final Four record for 3-pointers made in a game en route to a 95-79 win over Kansas and a spot in Monday's national championship game against Michigan. Villanova tied the record in the first half and broke it within the first minute of the second half. The Wildcats finished with 18 made 3-pointers.

So, historic, absolutely.

But here's the best part: It wasn't even Villanova's best shooting game this month.

Villanova already has shot a better percentage from beyond the arc twice in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats went 14-for-27 (51.9 percent) from 3-point range against Radford in the first round and then went for 13-for-24 (54.2 percent) against West Virginia in the Sweet 16. They also made 17 3-pointers against Alabama in the second round.

In other words: While it might have been historic, it wasn't that far out of the ordinary for Villanova.

This is what the Wildcats do.

"It's our best offensive team," coach Jay Wright said. "We've had some good ones. This is definitely our best."

They've now hit 15 or more 3-pointers in a game 11 times this season. They've shot 50 percent or better seven times this season.

"We have confidence to take some 3s, but even if we miss we don't worry about that," junior Mikal Bridges said last week.

Nearly every player on Villanova has the greenest of lights offensively. The Wildcats have six players who shoot 38.5 percent or better from 3-point range, five players who have made at least 50 3-pointers this season. Another player who doesn't fit either category, Eric Paschall, made four 3-pointers against Kansas on Saturday.

Villanova went 4-for-24 from 3 against Texas Tech last weekend, but the Wildcats didn't stray from what they do. They're going to shoot 3-pointers, and more often than not, they're going to make 3-pointers.

"Catch to shoot. And [coach Wright] gets on us if we don't catch to shoot," redshirt freshman Omari Spellman said last week. "We just go by the same, shoot 'em up, sleep in the streets. And it's worked for us so far.

"It doesn't excuse terrible shots. It definitely gives us confidence to shoot the ball when we feel that we're open and make plays. It gives us a lot of freedom offensively. And that's what Coach wants."

This season, Kansas has built itself on shooting the ball from the perimeter, using four guards and looking to create issues for opponents with quickness and speed. And the Jayhawks still got shot out of the building from the opening minute.

Villanova made three 3-pointers in a 73-second span in the opening three minutes, and buried another one before the first media timeout. The Wildcats made four in a row in a span of 2 minutes, 15 seconds midway through the first half, and three in a row in a span of 1 minute, 49 seconds late in the first half.

The onslaught continued whenever Kansas looked ready to make a run in the second half. The Jayhawks came out of halftime with energy, but Paschall's record-breaking 3 to beat the shot-clock buzzer and deflated them almost immediately. Devonte' Graham hit two 3-pointers early in the second half, but Villanova matched him shot for shot -- and then added on a Spellman 3-pointer and Spellman midrange jumper to push the lead to 22.

It was Villanova's night from the opening minute, and nothing Kansas did was going to change the momentum.

"I just think we did a good job of being ready to catch and shoot," junior guard Jalen Brunson said. "Everyone was making plays for each other. We were all ready to catch and shoot. And like Coach said, it was one of those nights where we were able to make shots. And that's what the lead looks like."

Deflating seems like a good word to describe the feeling opponents have when Villanova makes a couple of 3-pointers in a row, and it's clear the Wildcats' patented avalanche of points is coming.

"That's as good a team as we've played against that I can remember," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "They'd be hard for anybody to deal with if they shoot the ball like that."

The last time Villanova was in the Final Four, it shot 61.1 percent from 3-point range and beat Oklahoma by 44.

It's just the Villanova way.

Saturday was another example, but it certainly wasn't an anomaly.