National Champs: Kris Jenkins hit buzzer-beater to win title for Villanova

One shining moment? You bet. 

Kris Jenkins capped a tremendous game with a three-point, buzzer-beating shot to win the National Championship for the Villanova Wildcats in a 77-74 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels on Monday night at NRG Stadium in Houston.

In what will go down as an instant classic, a back-and-forth fight to the finish that came down to the final shot.

It started with a lot of role reversal. Villanova was the better team in the paint. North Carolina was raining threes.

The two teams matched shots for the first seven minutes before Villanova opened up a five-point lead with a three by Josh Hart. The Wildcats kept the five-point margin for a four minutes before a layup by Kennedy Meeks and a three by Justin Jackson knotted the score at 19.

Meeks and Joel Berry II made two layups to give UNC a four-point lead, but Villanova rallied back to tie the game at 30.

From there, the Tar Heels went on a 9-4 run to end the half in the final 3:21, but a series of plays stands out. Off a turnover, UNC drove in with a chance to extend the lead to nine. But Hart blocked Jackson's layup attempt and Phil Booth made a shot with under a second left in the half to cut the lead to five.

That four-point swing would prove to be huge.

In the first half, UNC shot 7-of-9 from three-point range, including three from Berry, who had a game-high 15 points at the half. Villanova had eight of their 34 points in the paint. 

Villanova kept that pressure inside going in the second half and turned up the defense. The Wildcats kept chipping away and finally got the game tied with 14 minutes to play on a Mikal Bridges dunk. 

Booth hit a three moments later to make it 49-46 and give Villanova the lead. That was the start of a 18-11 run that opened the lead up to 10, the highest of the night for the Wildcats at 67-57 with 5:12 to go.

But the Tar Heels would not go quietly. They scored the next seven points, cutting the lead to three with a Berry three-pointer with 3:46 left. Villanova opened the lead back up to six with 90 seconds to play.

And that set up one of the wildest finishes in college basketball history.

A three by Marcus Paige with 1:34 to play cut the lead to three. A jumper by Brice Johnson made it a one-point game just 24 seconds later.

After a timeout by Jay Wright, Villanova hit a pair of free throws, but Paige came back down the floor with a layup to cut the lead to one again with 24 seconds left. Two free throws from Hart made it a three-point game again with 14 seconds left.

As if the back-and-forth drama wasn't enough, the next two possessions set up two of the greatest shots you will ever see in any college basketball game.

First, UNC had to find a way to tie and miraculously did. After a near steal from Daniel Ochefu, Paige threw up an off-balance three that fell to tie the game with 4.9 seconds left.

Again, Jay Wright called timeout and the Wildcats ran a play that would make them National Champions. Ryan Arcidiacono took the inbound pass from Jenkins. Ochefu provided the screen and Arcidiacono charged across half-court to get into potential shooting position. Arcidiacono dished a quick pass to Jenkins with 1.2 seconds left. Jenkins put up the three with half a second to go and as the buzzer sounded, he buried it.

Game over. Onions. Villanova wins.

Forget the fact that this is a school in the Philadelphia area. That's one of the greatest shots in college basketball history, period, no matter where the school is located.

In addition, the winning shot may belong to Jenkins, who finished with 14 points, but the night belonged to two other Wildcats.

Arcidiacono was named Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament, scoring 16 points and adding two rebounds and two assists in the final game of his college career. Booth reached a new career-high with 20 points, shooting 6-of-7 from the floor.

Paige led the Tar Heels with 21 points, five rebounds and six assists. Berry had 20 points, but only five in the second half. Johnson finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Despite being outrebounded, 33-23, and turnovers really weren't one-sided — 10 for Villanova, 11 for UNC — Villanova won where it counted and in the two areas where they won all season. The Wildcats shot 58.3 percent from the floor and held UNC to a 42.9 shooting percentage.

But Kris Jenkins became a Philadelphia sports legend on Monday night and the Villanova Wildcats of 2016 cemented their place in history with a championship.

Those are rare words for Philadelphia of late. But on Monday night, they rang truer than ever.

Kevin Durso is editorial assistant for Sports Talk Philly. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

Go to top button