LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ryan Arcidiacono played coy, on cruise control, really, while Villanova held a lead over Kansas. But the moment it looked like the Jayhawks had control of the game and the Wildcats were ready to fade away, he stepped to the forefront in their 64-59 win on Saturday night.
This is what a leader does.
And Villanova needed him, especially when star forward Kris Jenkins picked up his fourth foul with 13 minutes, 37 seconds left, trying to defend a drive by Kansas’ Frank Mason III. Up to that point in the second half, the Wildcats had scored only one field goal as KU rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to claim the lead in this NCAA tournament game.
Arcidiacono rejuvenated the Wildcats’ offense, and it all started with a pump fake. He drew a mismatch when 6-foot-10 forward Landen Lucas ended up defending him on the perimeter. Arcidiacono got Lucas in the air and drew a foul while attempting a 3-pointer.
Kansas players spent that time at the free throw line admonishing Lucas for the play, the one that got the Wildcats going.
Arcidiacono hadn’t really hunted his shot aggressively until that play. Some of that was due to the defense of Devonte’ Graham. Some of it, frankly, was that Villanova didn’t need him to as Jenkins, guard Josh Hart and big man Daniel Ochefu had an easier go scoring.
With the game in the balance, Arcidiacono asserted himself and helped key a stretch where the Wildcats made five consecutive baskets after starting the half just 1-for-10 from the field.
When Arcidiacono came off a screen and immediately pulled up for a 3-pointer, he gave Villanova the lead for good at 47-45 with 8:42 to play.
It was a lead he’d help maintain by going 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the game’s final 33 seconds as the Wildcats advanced to their first Final Four since 2009.