In what will go down as one of the most dramatic endings to an NCAA National Championship game, two three pointers in the last five seconds decided it. After UNC’s Marcus Paige tied the score on a three with 4.7 seconds left, Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a long three at the buzzer to give Villanova a 77-74 victory and the NCAA title.
Unable to get inside, North Carolina still led 39-34 at the half after hitting seven threes. In the second half, Carolina went cold. On two different occasions, the Tar Heels went almost four minutes without scoring. After shooting over 50 percent in the first half, the Heels managed just 34 percent in the second half.
Meanwhile, Villanova, who shot 58 percent in the second half, went on a 19-7 run to take a five-point lead and increased the margin to 10 at 67-57 with 5:29 to go.
During a timeout, and down 10, UNC coach Roy Williams made the team a promise.
“I promised them if they did what I told them to do, we’d have a chance to win at the end,” Williams said with his voice cracking. “I just wish I could have done a little bit more.”
The Tar Heels did indeed come back and had a chance. Two free throws by Joel Berry, who scored 20 points, and a dunk by Brice Johnson cut the deficit to 67-61 with 4:11 left. A Berry three-point shot with 3:46 left cut the margin to three at 67-64.
Villanova’s Phil Booth, who scored a career-high 20 points off the bench, stopped the run with a big fade-away jumper in the lane to make it 69-64 with 3:09 left.
Down 70-64, UNC scored five straight on a three by Paige and a short jumper by Brice Johnson to cut the lead to 70-69 with 1:10 left. Nova’s Booth hit a couple of free throws after a controversial foul on UNC’s Isaiah Hicks that drew “ahs” and “boos” from the crowd when they watched the replay in the NRG Stadium.
Paige wouldn’t give up as he missed a driving layup, got the rebound and hit a reverse layup with 24 seconds left to once again draw the Heels to within a point at 72-71.
Villanova melted the clock until Johnson could foul Josh Hart but Hart hit both free throws to make it 74-71 with 14 seconds left.
That’s when Paige made perhaps the most remarkable shot of the season for Carolina when he double clutched in mid air and shot a three as his body was coming back down to earth. It went in with 4.7 seconds left to tie it at 74-all.
After a Villanova timeout, the Tar Heels set up a press so that the Wildcats would have to take it the length of the court. That’s just what happened as Ryan Arcidiacono dribbled up court, flipped it to Jenkins who shot the ball from the right side of the top of the key with less than a second to play. UNC’s Hicks was converging on him but couldn’t get there in time.
“When we were down 10, we believed we were going to win,” Paige said. “Kris (Jenkins) is their best three-point shooter. He got a pretty a clean look for whatever reason.”
The reason is that Hicks and Berry, covering Acridiacono, got into each other a bit and Hicks didn’t get out quick enough to bother the shot. “I think every shot’s going in, and this one was no different,” Jenkins said.
UNC’s Berry said, “I was just hoping it was still in his hand when the buzzer went off. It was tough feeling that confetti fall and it’s not for you.”
For much more on the game, including the box score, please click here.