In a dramatic ending to an intense national championship game, junior forward Kris Jenkins drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift Villanova over North Carolina, 77-74, at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday night. It’s the Wildcats’ first title since 1985 and just their second in school history.
It looked like the Tar Heels had forced overtime when Marcus Paige hit a three-pointer to tie the game with just 4.7 seconds remaining. Following a timeout, Jenkins hoisted a three-pointer before time expired after receiving a shovel pass from senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
"Kris told him he was going to be open, Arch made the perfect pass," Villanova coach Jay Wright said after the game. "Kris lives for that moment."
The Tar Heels built a seven-point lead in the first half, and maintained the advantage with roughly 15 minutes remaining. But the Wildcats led for most of the second half, and were up by as much as 10 points in the final minutes. North Carolina mounted a late comeback, nearly forcing overtime despite Villanova hitting clutch free throws down the stretch.
Phil Booth led Villanova with a career-high 20 points, making six of his seven field goal attempts. Arcidiacono added 16 points, and Jenkins scored 14 points, including the game-winner.
No.1 seed North Carolina entered the game as the favorite, looking for their sixth championship in school history and their third under coach Roy Williams. The Tar Heels hadn’t been challenged in their first five tournament games, winning each contest by at least 14 points. Villanova didn’t allow North Carolina to dominate in the paint like they had done during most of the tournament, forcing them to rely on three-pointers.
The Tar Heels hit 11-of-17 shots from behind the arc, but they shot just 42.9 percent from the field. Brice Johnson, North Carolina’s leading scorer, was held to just 14 points. Paige led all scorers with 21 points, including the contested three-pointer that tied the game at 74-74.
Villanova hit 58.3 percent of their shots, continuing their hot shooting that got them to the championship game. The Wildcats had 15 fewer field goal attempts than the Tar Heels, winning despite losing the rebounding battle, 36-23.
Wright, 54, captured his first national title in his 15th season with the Wildcats. Under Wright, Villanova's previous best finish was a trip to the Final Four in 2009.
"Right now, I'm numb. I really am. It is a thrill, it is humbling to feel so fortunate with these guys," Wright said.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 5, 2016