Kansas Finishes Historic Comeback, Beats UNC in NCAA Championship
The Kansas Jayhawks completed the biggest comeback in the history of the NCAA Championship Game to beat the North Carolina Tar Heels 72-69 in New Orleans
It's the first tournament championship for Kansas since 2008 and their fourth overall. Bill Self became the first Jayhawks head coach to win multiple titles.
For North Carolina, head coach Hubert Davis' Tar Heels saw their magic run as an eight seed finish just short of the program's seventh national championship in his first season on the job. Historically, eight seeds that have made a run in the tournament all the way to the championship game are now 1-4. The only winner remains 1985 Villanova, still the lowest seed to ever win the tournament.
Kansas started hot by taking an early 9-3 lead, but UNC fought back to tie the game. After the Jayhawks captured an 18-14 lead midway through the first half on a three-pointer, the Tar Heels took over.
Kansas made only three shots in the final 10:27 of the first half, and North Carolina went on a huge run. After the game was tied at 22 with just over six minutes remaining, Tar Heel forward Brady Manek hit back-to-back three-point shots, and North Carolina sparked a 16-0 run to open up a 38-22 lead. Forward Armando Bacot and guard RJ Davis controlled that stretch scoring a combined 11 points, and UNC was up 40-25 entering halftime.
Kansas forward David McCormack dunked to start the second half, and the Jayhawks started clawing back into the game. Kansas played excellent defense in the first 10 minutes out of the break, and they went on a 12-1 run to cut North Carolina's lead to 46-45 with 12 minutes left.
Another 9-0 run put Kansas up 56-50. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Jayhawks out-scored the Tar Heels 31-10. Offensively, it was a team effort as six different players scored in that stretch.
Needing an answer to snatch momentum back, North Carolina got a pair of field goals by Davis and a three-pointer to tie the game at 57 with eight minutes left. Kansas turned a potential blowout completely around, and suddenly the Tar Heels were scrambling. Jayhawks guard Remy Martin and forward Jalen Wilson each hit big threes to maintain the lead, but four clutch free throws by UNC once again tied it at 65.
Martin hit another huge three, but the Tar Heels got a layup by guard Caleb Love, and a put-back by Manek to re-take the lead with less than two minutes left.
After McCormack missed a jumper, he got his own rebound and hit his second-chance opportunity. On the other end, Bacot, who had injured his ankle in the final four, re-injured it on a drive to the basket and turned the ball over. A crucial turnover had Kansas with the ball, but instead of playing a 5 vs. 4 opportunity offensively with Bacot hobbled by his injury, they decided to play the clock.
Bacot exited the game and McCormack converted another huge jumper, this time without UNC's big man on the floor. Down three with under 20 seconds left, Love missed a three, but the Tar Heels got an offensive rebound. Another missed three and a Manek turnover following the second offensive rebound of the possession had Kansas in control.
Kansas did the one thing they couldn't do. They turned it over on a mistake on the sidelines with four seconds left to give UNC one final chance to take a three to tie it. However, Love's shot missed and the Jayhawks completed the biggest comeback in NCAA Championship Game history.
Each team had five players score over 10 points. McCormack led the way for Kansas with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Martin scored 14 points off the bench for the Jayhawks and was 4-6 on three-pointers. Bacot, Manek, and Davis each had double-doubles for the Tar Heels, but North Carolina was only 5-23 from three-point range.
In what could have been a blowout, the Kansas Jayhawks battled back to provide an incredibly entertaining finish to what was an excellent NCAA Tournament.