The Villanova Wildcats’ vaunted defense locked down the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second half, and the school won its second national championship Monday night, 77-74. But not before an exchange of three-pointers in the closing seconds.
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit a seemingly impossible double-pump three pointer with just five seconds to go to tie the game, but Villanova’s Kris Jenkins answered at the buzzer.
Villanova used a 19-5 run over nearly 10 minutes to take control of the game in the second half as the Tar Heels shot 3-14 and committed five turnovers. The Wildcats built a 10-point lead with less than six minutes to go, but seven straight points brought UNC back in striking range and set up the tense end of the game.
Villanova was led in scoring by two guards, sophomore Phil Booth with 20 and senior Ryan Arcidiacono — who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player — with 16.
The Tar Heels finished the first half with a 39-34 lead thanks to 7-9 shooting from three-point range and 15 points from sophomore Joel Berry II. But Berry had just 5 points in the second half as the Tar Heels were flustered by Villanova’s defense. Senior Marcus Paige led UNC with 21 points.
As in their semifinal win over Oklahoma, when six players had 10 or more points, Villanova used balanced scoring to stay in striking distance in the first half.
Villanova, making its first NCAA championship game appearance since its surprise title as an eight-seed in 1985, were dominant in their path toward the title game, winning by an average of 24 points. That included a victory over No. 1 overall seed Kansas to reach the Final Four, and a 95-51 domination of Oklahoma in the national semifinal.
North Carolina was making its 10th NCAA title game appearance, while the Tar Heels’ coach, Roy Williams, was making his fifth appearance after going 2-2 across 28 seasons at North Carolina and Kansas. UNC had a relatively easy path to the final, beating a No. 9 seed, No. 5 seed and No. 6 seed to get to the Final Four, where they easily dispatched 10th-seeded Syracuse.