Villanova won its first National Championship in 31 years after Kris Jenkins made a 3-pointer at the buzzer, besting a talented and slightly favored North Carolina squad 77-74 Monday night, capping off one of the most impressive NCAA Tournament runs in the history of college basketball.
Phil Booth made a career high 20 points, the Wildcats shot their tournament usual of above 50 percent (they bested UNC by a 58.3-49.2 percent margin) and suffocating defense helped lift Villanova after a lackluster first half.
With Villanova leading by three and just a few ticks left, UNC's Marcus Paige drilled a game-tying three to even things at 74-all. With 4.5 seconds left, the Wildcats had the ball and a chance to hit a shot and walk off as National Champions. Ryan Arcidiacono took the ball up court, passed it off to Jenkins and the three from the right side went in, finishing off one of the greatest National Championship games in history
The seventh NCAA Tournament meeting between the two schools went Nova's way as campus 11 miles west of Center City Philadelphia rejoiced, celebrated and -- went bonkers -- late Monday night.
Here's a brief look at three reasons why Philadelphia is home to a champion once again.
It's the National Championship game. There will not be another college basketball game played for nearly seven months. The Wildcats had the eyes of millions and more pressure than they ever have -- and likely ever will for the rest of their collective lives. It didn't change them,
All throughout Monday's contest the Wildcats were deliberate, defended hard and made the same smart decisions that got them to the title game.
The Tar Heels were able to use their length to make things a lot harder on the Wildcats, compiling an useful rebound edge 36-23. They were also not shy to drive to the hoop and kick it out to their shooters, who were able to make space using swift passes and killer shooting (7-for-9 from long range in the first half alone). Thanks to UNC's accuracy from long range they carried a 39-34 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats were also more potent in the paint, using high percentage shots to best 11 Tar Heel 3-pointers.
Second half stand
After Ryan Arcidiacono took a key charge midway in the second half, a backdoor pass to Mikal Bridges -- leading to a thunderous slam, got the Wildcats even with the Tar Heels at 44-apiece. Back-to-back Booth jumpers (the second a three) gave the Cats a lead that they'd build to 7 on a 17-5 run.
By the 5:29 mark, after a pair of drained Booth free throws the Wildcats led by 10.
UNC did not go quietly into the night, chipping away at the Wildcats lead and taking advantage of a few missed field goals to trail by a single point with 60 seconds to go. The lead was still one with 13.5 to go and Josh Hart converted at the line to push it to a more comfortable three.