Traveling to Philadelphia for its true road game of the season, Kansas men's basketball squared off with No. 18 Villanova in a top-25 showdown. Blowing a late lead in the final minutes, the Jayhawks dropped their first game as the No. 1 team in the country, 56-55.
In the first 20 minutes, both squads struggled to find consistency on the offensive end. Though Villanova ranked 37th in the nation in 3-point attempts per game at 9.6, the Wildcats elected to bombard the Jayhawks with 21 of them. However, the strategy would not prove effective, connecting on just five of those shots.
For Kansas, the tides appeared to be shifting in its favor at the 10:53 mark. Pushing the ball in transition, junior guard Marcus Garrett whipped a pass to sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji, who spotted up and knocked it home from beyond the arc. The bucket put the Jayhawks in front 14-7 and added to their 10-2 run.
But to close out the half, the Wildcats held Kansas to just nine points and forced a total of seven turnovers.
To make matters worse, Garrett landed awkwardly and injured his ankle on a layup. It would keep him out for the rest of the game, though the severity was not determined. The junior missed five games last season with an ankle injury.
When play resumed in the second half, Villanova refused to retreat on its plan to attack the Jayhawks from the 3-point arc. As teams remained deadlocked at 27 with 17:30 left to play, the Wildcats brought the crowd at Wells Fargo Center to life on an 8-0 run. The spurt was ignited by back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore forward Saddiq Bey and freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl — a product of Overland Park.
Missed shots and miscommunication helped define the final score as No. 1 Kansas lost a close battle to No. 18 Villanova Saturday, Dec. 21. The Jayhawks fell to the Wildcats in Philadelphia 56-55.
Trailing by its largest deficit of the game of eight points, Kansas responded with its second 10-2 run of the game. Taking just four minutes and seven seconds, the Jayhawks tied it back up at 37.
At the 8:42 mark, sophomore guard Devon Dotson gave Kansas the lead at 44-43 with the Jayhawks' third 3-pointer of the afternoon.
Trading blows back and forth, the game became tied again at 51 with four minutes to go.
Putting faith in a pair of freshmen off the bench — forward Tristan Enaruna and guard Christian Braun — Kansas was given a spark from Braun in the closing minutes. After denying Robinson-Earl at the rim to tie the game, Braun picked up a bucket and the foul on the other end to push the Jayhawks in front 55-51 with 1:49 left in the game.
However, presented the opportunity to go for the throat with a four-point lead and possession nearing a minute to go, disaster struck. In a span of 47 seconds, Kansas coughed up the lead.
After stripping the ball from Dotson and turning it into two points on the other end, Villanova brought it back to a one-possession game. Getting a stop on the defensive end, the Wildcats brought the ball back down the court with a chance to take the lead. And that they did.
On Villanova's 41st 3-point attempt of the game, junior forward Jermaine Samuels drained the go-ahead basket with 20 seconds left.
Kansas did get its chance to win after forcing a turnover on an in-bounds pass. Unfortunately, Dotson's floating attempt was too strong as the ball glanced off the back of the rim.
Next up, Kansas will head to the west coast for a matchup with Stanford — a team that took the Jayhawks to overtime in Lawrence last season. Tipoff on Dec. 29 is scheduled for 2 p.m. on ABC.