It was a true national championship contest, one of the ages. The Villanova Wildcats won the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship when Kris Jenkins made a three-point shot that left his hand with a half second to go. Nothing But Net! Cats win 77 – 74 over North Carolina.
There were 4.7 seconds left when Marcus Paige tied the game for the Tar Heels making a double clutched three-pointer. He dodged Wildcats defenders Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono to get the shot off that knotted the game at 70.
On the inbounds play Jenkins got the ball to Arcidiacono who sprinted up the court. Carolina was sure he was going to the basket and sank back to protect the basket. Arcidiacono turned and flipped the ball to Jenkins who stepped into his game-winning jumper that beat the buzzer.
Credit the Villanova defense for this victory. An advantage in speed and inside play was supposed to go to the Tar Heels, but they go no fast break points. Inside, UNC got 2 second chance points despite getting 16 offensive rebounds. Nova earned a 32 – 26 advantage in points in the paint. The Wildcats controlled the pace. Essentially, Villanova took away what North Carolina wanted to do. UNC had 63 field goal attempts compared to 48 for the Nova who shot 58.3% (8 of 14 from beyond the arc). Carolina was held to 42.9% shooting, but did get 11 of 17 from distance.
The Tar Heels had a 39 – 34 lead at halftime, and did it by making 7 of 9 three-pointers, their supposed weakness. A key play near the end of the half happened when Carolina streaked down the court. Justin Jackson was going in for a layup that would have spread the advantage to 9 points, but Josh Hart blocked the shot for Villanova. The ball got down court and a jumper by Phil Booth, 2 of his career-high 20 points, kept Nova within striking distance.
The second half saw Villanova go on a 12 – 5 run taking the lead on a shot by Booth at the 13:28 mark. After North Carolina tied it Booth gave the lead back to the Wildcats with a three-pointer with 12:45 to play starting a 21 – 8 run over the next seven plus minutes giving Villanova a 67 – 57 lead.
It appeared that the Wildcats had control. The Tar Heels would answer by scoring seven straight points getting to within 67 – 64 after Joel Berry II, converted a three, his fourth made three-pointer, at the 3:42 mark. Villanova would hold off North Carolina making 5 of 7 free throws until Paige made the improbable three off a broken play.
The Wildcats had four players score in double figures. In addition to Booth, Arcidiacono scored 16 points. Jenkins totaled 14 points and Hart contributed 12 points and a game-high tying 8 rebounds. Ochefu added 9 points and 6 rebounds.
The Tar Heels were led by Paige with a game-best 21 points and he handed out a game-high 6 assists. Berry scored 20 points and had 4 assists. Brice Johnson scored 14 points and took down 8 boards. Kennedy Meeks had 6 offensive rebounds, 7 overall.
Ryan Arcidiacono was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. He was joined on the All-Final Four Team by Booth and Hart for the Wildcats and Berry and Johnson from the Tar Heels.
This is the first NCAA Title for Jay Wright, the second for the program. Jenkins hit the first buzzer beater to win the NCAA Championship since 1983 when Lorenzo Charles hit the dunk for NC State over Houston. The Villanova seniors end their college career cutting the nets.
The Villanova Wildcats Win The National Championship. They earned it!
Written By: Glenn Papazian