It’s only right that one of the best college basketball season in recent memory, end with a game winner to capture the National Championship.
Kris Jenkins cemented himself into NCAA Tournament history with one of the greatest shots ever, and giving Villanova their first National title since 1985. What made Jenkins shot so great is that it came exactly after Marcus Paige tied the game with his double-pump three pointer with 4 seconds remaining. Both plays completely describe how this game went, bucket-for-bucket.
Villanova caps off an impressive run through the NCAA Tournament where they played stifling defense from start to finish. Nova held the Tar Heels to 42% shooting from the field, and made it tough for the Tar Heels to get the ball inside to Brice Johnson, something the Heels have done all tournament long. Johnson finished with 14 points but was frustrated for much of the 2nd half, struggling to gain position to work out. Jenkins and Daniel Ochefu played very well inside the paint, not allowing Johnson to do what he has been doing all tournament, which is dominate.
Ochefu had a solid game in the paint finishing with 9 points 6 boards and 2 blocks.
Guard play is what kept the Tar Heels in this game. Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II combined for 41 points and went 8-11 from the three point land. Many thought that the long-ball would be UNC’s achilles heel (pun intended) but it turned out to be their best weapon. As a team they ended up going 11-17 (64%) from the field, the best shooting night they had all tournament.
Berry was the Tar Heels best offensive weapon, scoring 15 points in the first half. He also went 4-4 from three point land. Justin Jackson also played a big part in the first half, both sophomores gave the college basketball world a glimpse of what the future of Tar Heel basketball look like.
Marcus Paige trey ball will also go down as one of the best shots in Final Four history. He prevented Ochefu from stealing the pass, and then avoided Ryan Arcidiacono to get up the shot. It was spectacular. Paige made another big play prior to that possession when he grabbed his own rebound, after it look like Villanova had come up with the board, to score and cut Nova’s lead from three to one. One couldn’t ask for a better game from Paige.
Even with Carolina’s success in the backcourt, the game was still in Nova’s favor. The game fit Nova’s style and I think that’s another reason why they were able to win this game. Arcidiancono scored 16 points while Josh Hart contributed 14 and 8 boards. Arcidiacono had impressive game that will have NBA scouts thinking about whether or not he will fit their team. He proved to be a floor general that can play defense and make the right decision - hence forcing Paige to take a tough shot without fouling and dropping the dime off to Kris Jenkins instead of taking the shot himself.
No one will remember the questionable fouls that went on during this game, another example of how great the game was. The Baltimore and DMV area was represented very well, Nova with four players on their roster; Kris Jenkins (Upper Marlboro MD), Josh Hart (Silver Spring MD), Daniel Ochefu (Baltimore MD) and Phil Booth (Baltimore MD). Booth was the unsung hero, providing some big minutes off the bench for the Wildcats, dropping 20 points while going 6-7 from the field. It's gratifying to see players that I had an opportunity to cover while they were in high school, making plays on the big stage ---but it upsetting to see them not playing for the Terps but I digress.
As for Jay Wright, he finally gets the monkey off his back. After failed trips to the NCAA Tournament and the most recent Big East tournament loss to Seton Hall, this title will make everyone forget all of it. It's safe to say that he will be making his way back to this area looking for the next Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart.