In the first game David McCormack scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting while Ochai Agbaji added 21 points as Kansas pulled away late in the game in a 81-66 win over Villanova. Christian Braun (10 points) hit two late three-pointers, one a 26-footer at the end of the shot clock to help the Jayhawks pull away, Agbaji connected on his first six three-point attempts, ending the contest 6-of-7 from deep. Jalen Wilson added 11 points and 12 rebounds while McCormack added 12 rebounds as Kansas outrebounded Villanova 35-29. Collin Gillespie led the Wildcats with 17 points (6-of-11 FG’s, 5-of-8 3s).
Kansas came out hot in the first half, connecting on 7-of-14 first half three-pointers as Agbaji made all four of his attempts from distance as the Jayhawks raced out to a 40-29 halftime lead. Gillespie kept the Wildcats close, scoring 11 points on 3-of-5 from deep. Kansas led 38-19 before Villanova scored ten straight points, helped by eight points, including two three-pointers from Gillespie to make it closer at the half.
The Wildcats continued their surge in the second half, reducing the Kansas lead to 52-45 on a three-pointer from Brandon Slater (16 points) with 12:47 remaining. They closed the deficit to six points (64-58) on a three-point play by Jermaine Samuels (9 points) with 6:10 left but could get no closer than that. Braun’s long three-pointer made it 71-59 and his second three extended the lead to 75-59 as the Jayhawks coasted from there.
Both teams shot well from distance with Kansas hitting 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) and Villanova 13-of-31 (41.9 percent). The game was very well played with only 16 combined turnovers (9 by Villanova, 7 by Kansas).
The highly anticipated second game between North Carolina and Duke was one of the more exciting Final Four games in recent memory. The two teams battled closely throughout the first half with Duke taking a 37-34 halftime lead in a three-point play by Jeremy Roach with 3.1 seconds left in the half. The Blue Devils were hurt as center Mark Williams was limited to five minutes of action after committing his second personal foul. Marquette transfer Theo John filled in well, replacing Williams with six points and four rebounds in 11 minutes.
Paulo Banchero led the Blue Devils at the half with 10 points, hitting 2-of-3 from deep and added six rebounds. Trevor Keels added eight points (4-of-6 FG) off the bench. RJ Davis kept the Tar Heels close with 14 first half points on 5-of-7 from the field (2-of-3 3s). Armando Bacot pulled down nine first half rebounds for the Tar Heels. Neither team shot well from deep, with Duke going 2-of-12 and North Carolina shooting 3-of-13.
After Duke scored the first two baskets of the second half the Tar Heels roared back, scoring 13 straight points, highlighted by a Brady Manek corner three and ten points from Caleb Love, to take a 47-41 lead. Duke came right back on a 6-0 run tying it at 47 on a Banchero hoop and went ahead 51-49 on a steal and basket from Wendell Moore Jr. The lead went back-and-forth with the Tar Heels going ahead by two points on another Manek three-pointer and a Banchero jumper tying the game at 55 for Duke. The Tar Heels then went on a 7-2 run, going ahead 62-55 on a Davis jumper.
Duke came right back with their own 6-0 run, taking a 63-62 lead on a Keels basket off an offensive rebound. Duke.went to smaller lineup midway through the half with Williams committing his fourth personal foul, joining John, who also had four fouls, on the bench. With the score tied at 65, Bacot had to be helped off the foul after taking a hard fall under the Duke basket. He returned shortly after.
Duke took back the lead 71-70 on a three from Keels, Manek’s three-pointer put the Tar Heels in front and then Moore Jr, returned the favor with a three-pointer that put Duke up 74-73 with 1:18 remaining. After Davis’s two free throws put UNC in front by one, Bacot fouled out of the game sending Williams to the line. Williams missed both attempts and Love followed with a three-pointer to put the Tar Heels up 78-74. The Tar Heels held off Duke at the end, escaping with the 81-77 win.
Love led North Carolina with 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Davis added 18 points, Manek scored 14 while Bacot added 11 points and 21 rebounds. Banchero led Duke with 20 points and ten rebounds and Keels added 18 points. The game featured 18 lead changes and twelve ties.