NEW ORLEANS—Kansas is heading to the national title game.
The final No. 1 seed remaining in this men’s NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks looked the part in dominating No. 2 Villanova in the Final Four on Saturday for a 81-65 win before a sellout crowd of more than 70,000 at the Caesars Superdome.
Kansas will meet and North Carolina in the national championship on Monday (9:20 pm ET, TBS).
The Jayhawks (33-6) came out firing on all cylinders and put on an offensive clinic. They shot a blistering 13-for-24 from three-point range, including a 7-for-10 start from beyond the arc.
“We came out ready to play,” coach Bill Self said. “I thought we played great offensively.”
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Kansas looked dominant from the tip, jumping out to a 10-0 lead off aa triple from Ochai Agbaji (21 points on the night), who got hot early with four first-half threes and then drilled a pair of dagger jumpers to put the game away in the second half.
“I just felt relaxed, but still confident and ready to attack the game,” Agbaji said.
Villanova took a timeout midway through the first half after looking discombobulated after KU jumped out to a 26-11 lead off a David McCormack slam. The big man gave the Jayhawks a clear advantage against an undersized ‘Nova squad, finishing with 25 points and nine rebounds.
“If we can play inside, it opens up for more shots and driving lanes,” McCormack said. “That made it easy.”
The Wildcats (30-8) wouldn’t go away and showed signs of life, cutting the deficit to 38-29 in the first half off a three-pointer by Collin Gillespie (17 points off five three-pointers), ‘Nova’s five -year senior point guard who kept them in striking distance with his playmaking in phases of the second half.
“We felt like we were right there,” Gillespie said. “We were going to do whatever it took to battle back.”
A Jermaine Samuels three-point play cut it to 64-58 with 6:10 remaining. The Wildcats had 13 three-pointers of their own to match KU on that front.
“We knew Villanova would make a run,” Self said. “We held on and responded. With the exception of defending the arc, I just thought we played terrific.”
In the end, Villanova just didn’t have enough weapons to match Kansas’ dynamic offense, with starter Justin Moore out with an Achilles injury.
“We were ready and we were good enough to win that game,” coach Jay Wright said. “(Kansas) did a lot of things that made them win the game.”
The Jayhawks didn’t get the normal production it was used to from its bench, namely guard Remy Martin – KU’s leading scorer in three NCAA Tournament games. But others stepped up and made clutch plays. Just as Villanova was inching back into the game, a Christian Braun three-pointer with 4:51 left sealed the victory.
Kansas is back in its first title game since 2012 when the Jayhawks lost to Kentucky. The program hasn’t won a national championship since 2008 when it beat Memphis in overtime.
The matchup between Kansas and ‘Nova was being tabbed as the “undercard,” by Self, with a national semifinal matchup between archrival blue-bloods Duke and North Carolina hyped as one of the biggest college basketball games in history.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.