When the confetti came pouring down on Monday night, one college basketball team stood victorious. After trading a pair of buzzer-beaters, the Villanova Wildcats (Penn.) defeated the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 77-74 to claim their second National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship, their first one since 1985. This game was a classic. An absolute classic. You’re going to hear those words a lot over the next several days. Don’t worry if you need to take a break from basketball, though; people are going to be talking about this game for a while.
The last few weeks have been spent narrowing the field down from 64 teams, and by Monday night, only two were left: UNC and Villanova. It was hardly the game that most people predicted at the beginning of March, but damn did these teams show up to play.
This game was all about the second half, but the first half was entertaining as well. Villanova came out of the gate strong, opening up a 17-12 lead. However, the Tar Heels battled back to tie the game at 30-30 and then took a 39-32 lead with 14 seconds left. In what would be just a glimpse of the action to play out later in the game, the Wildcats turned the ball over, leading to a fast break for the Tar Heels. Villanova junior guard Josh Hart had other plans. Hart blocked UNC sophomore guard Justin Jackson’s layup, leading to a break the other way. Villanova sophomore guard Phil Booth had enough time to pull up from the elbow and knock down a jump shot to make the score 39-34. The turnaround turned a potential nine-point UNC lead to a five-point one and gave Villanova the momentum heading into the second half.
The second half was all about Villanova. Eleven minutes into the second half, Villanova had turned their seven-point deficit at the half into a seven-point lead, 55-48. When UNC battled back to get within three points, Villanova got the lead back to 10 at 67-57 with around five minutes left in the game. At that point, UNC put the pedal to the metal and rallied back. With a minute left in the game, the score stood at 70-69, Villanova. What happened in that final minute will define clutch basketball forever.
With the ball, Villanova went down and managed to get Booth to the line with 35 seconds left. Booth hit a pair of free throws to extend Villanova’s lead to three. UNC senior guard Marcus Paige drove to the rim and put up a layup that couldn’t find the net. After that, it seemed like the game might be over, but Paige managed to get his own rebound, and this time he got his shot to fall. With only a single timeout remaining, Villanova opted not to use it and headed back down the floor. Hart managed to draw a foul from UNC senior forward Brice Johnson and went to the line for two free throws. In what would be roughly the third clutchest thing to happen that night, he knocked down both to give Nova a 74-71 lead with 13 seconds left in the game, setting up one of the greatest finishes in NCAA history.
Narrowly snagging a pass from a diving Wildcat, Paige pulled up from several feet behind the three point line, and with another defender running towards him causing him to adjust mid-air, sunk a double clutch three to tie the game at 74 with 4 seconds left. The UNC fans in the crowd and around the world went wild, now hoping for overtime when minutes earlier defeat seemed certain. However, just as in any sport, four seconds is a lot of time, and it proved to be more than enough for the Wildcats. Villanova took their final timeout and kept the whole country waiting through an agonizing commercial break. UNC came out of the timeout pressuring the ball full court, but Villanova managed to get the ball inbounded to senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono. He tried to drive to the rim, but when he was cut off with just over a second left, it seemed certain that the game would be going to overtime. Rather, Arcidiacono simply stopped, pivoted and tossed the ball behind him to junior forward Kris Jenkins. Jenkins then calmly caught the ball and knocked down a three, for what will almost certainly be the most important shot he will ever make. The rest is history.
While UNC didn’t win the championship, they can take some solace in the fact that this game will go down as one of the greatest college basketball games ever. While I’m sure it’s a bittersweet taste, they gave it their all. Villanova walked away with the trophy, and they deserved to, but this was anyone’s game up to the end. It’s gonna be tough waiting until next season for college basketball, but watching the highlights from this game will make it easier. See you next season.
Special Projects Editor | Jacob Durst is a Goizueta Business School junior from Dallas, Texas double majoring in business and political science. He has been a big sports fan as long as he can remember, and his teams are the Houston Rockets, Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys. He also wants to throw out there that Sports is the best section.