By: David Woeltz ~Staff Writer~
The trophy is back in the Big East and Villanova is hoisting it.
Kris Jenkins etched his name in NCAA Tournament history with a game-winning three-pointer as time expired to give Villanova (35-5) a 77-74 victory over North Carolina (33-7).
Ryan Arcidiacono found a trailing Jenkins by running a play that the Wildcats have worked on all season.
“I didn’t have to say anything in the huddle,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We have a name for it, that’s what we’re going to do. Just put everybody in their spots.”
Only moments before Jenkins’ shot, Marcus Paige tied the game for the Tar Heels with a miraculous double-clutch three-pointer with 4.7 seconds left. The shot completed a six-point comeback for North Carolina during the final two minutes.
After trailing 39-34 at the half, Villanova built a double-digit lead in the second half. The Wildcats were led by Phil Booth, who finished with a career-high 20 points and Arcidiacono, who added 16.
The Tar Heels chipped away at the lead by relying on their rebounding advantage down low. Brice Johnson grabbed eight rebounds to go along with 14 points. Kennedy Meeks was another force with six offensive rebounds, although he was held to 1-for-8 from the field.
North Carolina was led by an extraordinary effort from Paige. The senior finished with 21 points, six assists and five rebounds. Joel Berry II added 20 points on a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.
It was only fitting that former Villanova head coach Rollie Massimino was in the house to witness the win since his 1985 squad pulled off one of the most memorable championship wins in tournament history versus Georgetown. The Tar Heels had Michael Jordan in attendance, who could only watch as the final shot went in.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was denied a third national championship for a program seeking to win its sixth. This was a tough game to swallow for the veteran coach.
“I promised them if they do what I said, we’d come back, and we’d have a chance to win the game,” Williams said. “We let Villanova have the ball last.”
Jenkins made sure he took advantage of the last possession. He gave Villanova its second national championship and avenged the early exits by the Wildcats in each of the last two seasons.