Villanova Wins NCAA Tournament With Buzzer Beater Finish
Nobody will be allowed to say the National Championship game disappointed after Monday's result. It was everything a basketball fan could ask for and more.
There were runs made by both teams. Villanova and North Carolina experienced the full spectrum of emotions, along with their fans. The Tar Heels thought they forced overtime with a double-clutch three-pointer from Marcus Paige, but they had to watch the Wildcats hit a buzzer-beater as the clock expired.
It was one of the best finishes in NCAA Tournament history, and Villanova won its second national title in school history by writing their name into basketball folklore.
The 77-74 final score isn't nearly enough to tell the story of the game. After all, a storybook finish requires a solid foundation for the final chapter to hit home.
Nova's Head Coach Jay Wright couldn't even believe what he saw.
"I was just shocked," Wright told CBS' Jim Nantz moments after the incredible finish. "We put it in Arch's [Ryan Arcidiacano] hands. It's Arch's job to make that decision. Kris [Jenkins] told him he was going to be open. Arch made the perfect pass, and Kris Jenkins lives for that moment."
Jenkins' scored 14 points in the championship game, but those three points at the end of the game will written and spoken about for years. Jenkins grew up with UNC backup PG Nate Britt as brothers, but he delivered the dagger to finish off his Tar Heels like it was just another shot.
"Every time I one-two step, it's definitely going up," Jenkins said about his mindset during when he shot the buzzer beater. "I think that every shot is going in, so that one was no different."
Ryan Arcidiacano (16 pts, 6-9 FG, 2-3 3 pt) only had two assists all night, but his pass to Jenkins was the difference in the game.
Arcidiacano, or "Arch," as his team calls him, perfectly exemplified what made the championship game special. He was raised a Villanova fan, he played all four years as a Wildcat, and he finished off a fairy tale with an incredibly unselfish play.
He wanted the buzzer-beater for himself, but his decision to pass the ball was historically great.
"That's just something every kid dreams about," Arcidiacano said about Jenkins' game-winning shot. "Every kid dreams about that shot. I wanted that shot, but I just had confidence in my teammates and Kris was able to knock down the shot."
The game never let fans go. It gripped them from the very beginning, and even though Villanova led by double-digits at one point, neither team felt safe the entire game. The Wildcats hung around in the first half, despite UNC shooting 7-9 from beyond the arc to start the game. In the second half, they stuck to the grindstone and ended up shooting 58 percent when the curtain finally fell.
Both teams had fantastic performances from players off the bench as well. UNC's Joel Berry scored 15 of UNC's first 34 points, but the Wildcats held him to five points in the second half for 20 points in the game. On the opposite side, Phil Booth hit six of his seven shots to contibute 20 points to Nova's cause.
The Tar Heels held the momentum all the way until the ten minute mark of the second half, then Villanova seized their momentum.
Unfortunately, somebody had to lose. The Tar Heels played an incredible game, and there were contributions from up and down veteran-clad rosters (full box score). This wasn't a matchup of one-and-dones, and the grown men delivered.
Daniel Ochefu played his last game off collegiate basketball on Monday, and he was able to summarize the entire drama perfectly.
"Dreams have come true tonight," Ochefu said with the trophy in his hands. "We played for those that came before us."
Whether they played for the ones that played before them, after them, or the fans that tuned in across the globe, both teams delivered one of the best games in college basketball history. Enjoy it, because it's a long time until it will be back.