What a classic.
The first buzzer beater in college basketball championship game history in more than 30 years gave Villanova a 77-74 defeat of North Carolina and its second national title.
Here are five reasons why the Wildcats defeated the Tar Heels, starting with the obvious:
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound forward picked up two quick fouls and spent much of the first half on the Wildcats bench. He made an impact during the 21 minutes he played, stretching the floor with a pair of 3-pointers and muscling inside to score 14 points.
But there’s one shot that earned him a permanent place in Philadelphia’s rich basketball tradition.
Villanova coach Jay Wright called timeout after UNC guard Marcus Paige hit an improbable double-clutching 3-pointer to cap a comeback from a 10-point deficit and tie the game at 74. Wildcats point guard Ryan Arcidiacono took the inbounds pass, dribbled across halfcourt, stopped and pitched to Jenkins on his right. He caught the ball in rhythm, stepped into the shot and buried the 25-footer over Isaiah Hicks’ outstretched left arm.
Wright and Jenkins gave Arcidiacono credit for delivering a perfect pass. Jenkins said the shot felt good as it left his hand.
“I think every shot is going in,” he said. “So every shot I shot today I thought was going in so that one was no different.”
The gritty senior ignited the Villanova offense with seven points in the first five minutes, then went on an extended scoring drought. He reheated late, finishing the game with 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting, and of course an assist that will be replayed repeatedly every March as long as there’s an NCAA tournament.
Arcidiacono, who played 37 minutes, kept the Tar Heels off balance with an assortment of pivots and shot fakes around the lane and also buried two 3-pointers. He was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
We’ve seen it many times before. A role player turns into a star for 40 minutes in the most important game of the year. Lee Humphrey did it for Florida in 2005. So did Luke Hancock for Louisville in 2013. And Grayson Allen of Duke followed suit last season.
Add Villanova guard Phil Booth to the list.
Booth entered the championship game averaging only 6.8 points per game. The Wildcats sixth man is generally their third or fourth scoring option when he’s on the floor. His offensive rating of 100.9 was the lowest of the eight players who fill the Wildcats’ rotation.
None of that mattered against North Carolina.
Booth, a sophomore, scored a career-high 20 points, hitting 6 of 7 field goals and all six free throws. He played 25 minutes, spelling ineffective starter Jalen Brunson and reached double figures for only the 15th time in 77 games at Villanova.
His spinning fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired with 3:09 remaining pushed the Wildcats lead to five points and he buried two free throws to stretch the cushion to three with 35 seconds showing.
He was named to the Final Four All-Tournament team.
Villanova’s two-point defense was terrific
North Carolina entered the game shooting 54 percent on two-pointers (21st in the nation). In the national semifinal against Syracuse, the Tar Heels scored 50 points in the paint. With a 6-foot-8, 6-foot-10, 6-foot-10 frontcourt, the Tar Heels came in scoring 61 percent of their points on two-pointers (third in the nation).
Villanova eliminated the Tar Heels primary weapon.
They scrapped and pressured UNC away from the basket and into mid-range jump shots. The end result was a 16 of 46 performance inside-the-arc (35 percent), which was easily UNC’s worst of the season and 10 points less than its previous tournament low on 2-pointers.
Villanova actually outscored UNC 32-26 in the paint.
Marcus Paige just ran out of time
What a gutty performance by the Tar Heels decorated senior, who scored 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half.
He heaved his teammates onto his back and brought his team back from a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes, scoring eight of the final 10 points for his team.
After missing a shot in the lane with 26 seconds remaining with UNC down three points, he somehow fought among the forwards to dig out the rebound and score. Then, he hit a double-clutch 3-pointer from 28 feet with five seconds showing to tie the game.
"You know, I just wanted to have the ball in my hands in that situation," he said.