HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – With an impressive second half, hitting a game-winning shot as time expired, the Wildcats won win the NCAA National Championship over North Carolina.
In front of the second-largest crowd to ever witness the tournament’s finale, 74,340, the pride of the Big East conference would erase a five-point halftime lead by the ACC powerhouse to win the title thanks to Kris Jenkins’ last-second triple 77-74 Villanova.
The first half really began to heat up nearly half way through. As the two teams had kept a steady pace through 11 minutes of play it turned into a slugfest. North Carolina erased a five-point Villanova lead with a Kennedy Meeks jumper and a Justin Jackson deep ball. Josh Hart would make the first of consecutive buckets while Marcus Paige answered with a deep ball to give the Tar Heels the lead. Josh Hart again would hit as the exchanges kept coming. Joel Berry II was up next to go deep and give UNC the 25-23 lead.
The game would slow as an explosion of fouling by the Tar Heels kept any rhythm from developing. In the final four minutes, it would be the Berry II show. He would score seven of the final nine points of the half for North Carolina. Villanova staring down a seven-point deficit before half, would get a clutch shot from Phil Booth to cut it to five at half as UNC led 39-34.
A cold start by North Carolina to the second half allowed the Wildcats to close the gap. Hart would hit a dunk for the Wildcats to close the lead to two and moments later Mikal Bridges would have the Villanova faithful erupting as he tied it with an uncontested dunk 44-44 with just under 14 minutes left. Villanova would push the lead to seven and keep the Tar Heels at bay as the two sides traded baskets.
With the Nova lead dwindling Arcidiacono would hit a step-back three and then follow with some free throws. At the 5:30 mark Villanova would lead by ten. Carolina wasn’t done. Berry II would heat back up drilling one from deep but a pair of missed free throws by Jackson would allow Nova to hold their lead at five with just under two to play.
With the lead at six Marcus Paige would have a feeble layup attempt sent into the stands. The senior, unfazed, would drill from deep off the inbound to cut the lead to three. The ensuing play Arcidiacono would throw it away and a layup brought North Carolina within one.
A questionable foul call would set Booth up for two free throws. He would hit both. 72-69 Villanova lead. Paige would come down with a rebound in the land of the giants before putting it back to cut the lead back to one. Josh Hart would take to the charity stripe pushing the lead back to three.
A double-clutch Marcus Paige triple would tie the game and send the complimentary seat cushions of the fans into the air for celebrations.
Kris Jenkins would prove the hero, though. With time expiring he let go from deep winning the Wildcats the national title 77-74.
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