Jenkins Shot Vaults Villanova into History

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

#2 Villanova 77, #1 North Carolina 74 – Box Score

It was one of the most incredible shots in tournament history and years from now, few people will remember it because, seconds later, there was an even better one.

After UNC’s Marcus Paige (game-highs of 21 points and 6 assists) hit a double-clutch, off-balance, hanging three-pointer to knot the game at 74 with just over 4 seconds remaining, Jay Wright called a timeout. The ensued play he drew up had Ryan Arcidiacono (16 points) push the ball hard up-court. As two Tar Heel defenders converged on the senior guard, sure he would be taking the final game-winning attempt, Arch selflessly flicked the ball back to now-Villanova legend, Kris Jenkins (14 points). The rest instantly became NCAA tournament history.

Jenkins’ three-pointer was the first buzzer-beater to win a national championship since 1983. The shot was a classic portrait of the man who hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like, whose teammates call him Big Smooth, who has Big Ticket in his ticket handle. Interviewed on the center-court podium minutes after the game, Jenkins showed why he was the perfect guy to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

Still, as it so often is for Villanova, it was a complete team effort. The Wildcats overcame a 33-23 UNC rebounding advantage, which included 14 offensive boards. With Kris Jenkins in first half foul trouble, Josh Hart had to play a lot of power forward against guys considerably bigger than him, and corralled 8 rebounds to go along with his 12 points.

Marcus Paige and Joel Berry each hit 4 threes as a usually poor shooting Tar Heels squad shot 11-17 (64.7%) from behind the arc. The Wildcats countered with Phil Booth, as the sophomore guard had the biggest game of his life on the biggest stage, scoring a career-high 20 points, while shooting 6-7 from the field at 6-6 at the line. Booth, Jenkins, and Arcidiacono all hit two threes, as the Wildcats didn’t rely as heavily on the three ball as they usually do, but were quite effective from downtown nonetheless (8-14 from three, 57.1%).

After the victory, Ryan Arcidiacono was named the most outstanding player for the tournament, a perfect ending to a sparkling 4-year career at Villanova. Arch shot 66% from the field in the tournament, including 13 of 18 from three (72.2%). More importantly though, his senior leadership imbued the Wildcats with a sense of calm at all times; the Wildcats never looked rushed or overwhelmed by the moment these past few weeks. His unselfishness on that final play to not take the shot and find his open teammate instead was a perfect example of the team mentality Villanova had taken the court with all season long.

What a ride. Villanova has its second national championship with arguably its greatest team of all time steam-rolling through the NCAA tournament competition.

The title also cements Jay Wright’s legacy as one of the great coaches in college basketball history. Jay, what are your thoughts in the midst of this euphoria?

Just how he drew it up.

A championship in Philadelphia; it doesn’t come around too often. Enjoy it, Nova Nation.

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