Villanova’s Jenkins nails shot for ages
No. 2 seed Wildcats shock Tar Heels with buzzer-beating 3-point winner
The maddest March of all ended with one of the most incredible finishes in NCAA tournament history.
After an incredible, doubleclutch North Carolina threepointer by Marcus Paige tied the game with 4.7 seconds remaining, Villanova junior Kris Jenkins beat the buzzer with a three of his own, to give the school a 77-74 victory and its second national title.
It might not have been as surprising as the 1985 win over powerhouse Georgetown, but the conclusion was epic.
The Tar Heels led by five after a solid first half, but then ceded control to Villanova for the final 20 minutes, until that wild finish.
After a Villanova turnover followed a North Carolina threepointer — by Paige — the Tar Heels scored again to move within a point with a minute remaining. Villanova was in trouble, but got a gift of a call, made both free throws, then hit two more following a North Carolina bucket by Paige.
The Wildcats dribbled out of trouble (Ryan Arcidiacono has committed barely any turnovers in this tournament), to send Villanova back to the free throw line. Josh Hart hit both, to restore the three-point edge.
But Paige hit his memorable three, and the roof at NRG Stadium seemed poised to fall off with 4.7 seconds remaining. But that was nothing. When Jenkins hit his shot, one that will forever go down in history, the crowd of 74,340 was a frenzied mix of unadulterated lunacy and stunned disbelief.
Though the one call had an odour to it, Villanova earned the benefit of the doubt with its overall work.
To be the best, you have to beat the best, and after topping No. 1 overall seed Kansas in the Sweet 16, Oklahoma and its player of the year Buddy Hield a game later, the Wildcats topped No. 2 overall seed North Carolina, shooting 58.3 per cent against perhaps the best defensive team in the NCAA.
Jenkins finished with 14 points, Phil Booth 20, Arcidiacono 16. Paige scored 21 for the losers, Joel Berry III 20.
In the first half, Villanova scored at will against a defensive juggernaut. Before Arcidiacono, who was named tournament most outstanding player after the game, got to his local Philadelphia school, the program had been well under .500. With him, the school earned a No. 1 and No. 2 seed, but got eliminated early, until riding another No. 2 seed all the way to the title game.
The physical, tough Wildcats, with only one player taller than 6-foot-8, won the points in the paint battle 32-26 and overcame a big rebounding deficit against the biggest and most athletic team.
Both teams cooled considerably to start the final 20 minutes of the season, though the Wildcats, on a tear for a few weeks, heated up again, while North Carolina faltered. UNC started the second half just 4-for-15 from the field. Meanwhile, Villanova continued to break down the North Carolina defence. Joel Berry hit a three to cut the gap to 67-64, but Booth responded with one of three incredible shots he made on the night of his life. Villanova became the sixth school with two titles and denied North Carolina a chance to break a tie with bitter rival Duke with a sixth championship.
The Tar Heels had won 10 in a row heading in, but Villanova ended the season with victories in 11-of-12, including the biggest one of all.