The 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game will go down as an all-time classic, decided by one of the most incredible final five seconds in a championship game ever. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels 77-74. The winning shot was an immediately legendary three pointer from junior Kris Jenkins as time expired. The play was set up by an equally impressive Marcus Paige three with 4.7 seconds left, but Jenkins will go down in history as the man who won the 2016 national championship with his heroics.
The victory is Villanova’s first title since 1985. That year, Rollie Massimino—who was in NRG Stadium tonight—coached the Wildcats past Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas. This championship is Jay Wright’s first in his career, as he finally got his program over the precipice at which they had been standing for the past decade or so.
The game will go down as one of the all-time greatest in the history of the NCAA tournament, if not all of sports. From the very beginning, both teams played up to their potential and it created an absolutely marvelous game of basketball for the entire 40 minutes.
For all the talk of North Carolina’s struggles on three-pointers, they came out firing in the first half. Joel Berry was 3-for-3 on treys and 6-of-7 overall for 15 first half points. Overall, the Tar Heels were 7-of-9 from three, despite shooting just 31.9% on the season. Meanwhile, the Wildcats also shot pretty well, just not from distance. They were 14-of-24 in the first half overall, but just 3-of-7 from 3. They spread their scoring around in the opening frame, with four players leading the way with 7 points apiece.
The game was even, tied 30-30 with just over three minutes to go in the first half. At that point, UNC put together a 9-2 run and threatened to take a double digit lead into halftime. A Villanova stop and a subsequent jump shot at the buzzer by Phil Booth stopped the bleeding and cut the lead to 39-34 at the half.
The Wildcats went on a run to open the second half, eventually taking a 49-46 lead thanks to a Phil Booth three-pointer. The referees also made the game interesting, leading Mikal Bridges to be benched with four fouls early in the second half. Kennedy Meeks and Marcus Paige were also forced to play extended minutes with three fouls apiece.
Nova continued to make a run, extending their lead to 55-48 on the back of a 11-2 stretch. Their shooting remained consistent into the second half, but the Tar Heels percentage plummeted to 27% after the break by the end of the Wildcat run. They cut the lead to three briefly, but a Ryan Arcidiacono three and successful free throws allowed Nova to re-take a double digit lead.
From there, Joel Berry picked up where he left off in the first half, catalyzing a 7-0 UNC run. A Phil Booth floater made it 69-64 with 3 minutes left to play, setting up a barnstorming finish.
UNC continued to close the gap, with a Marcus Paige three and a Brice Johnson two off a turnover getting them to within 70-69 with exactly one minute left. After Nova pushed their lead to three with free throws from Josh Hart, UNC had just 13 seconds to tie. An off-balance Marcus Paige three from long, long distance tied the game with 4.7 seconds left and set the sky blue end of the stadium into chaos.
That set the stage for Kris Jenkins’ historic buzzer beating three pointer as time expired. The shot capped off a 14-point night for Jenkins. Booth led the Wildcats in scoring, finishing with 20 points. For the Tar Heels, Paige and Berry combined for 41 points but it was not enough to defeat Villanova.
Villanova senior Ryan Arcidiacono—who assisted on Jenkins’ final shot—was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for his performance throughout the month of March.
Soccer Head Writer
While Villanova may have won the game, the true winner on the night was the crying Jordan meme. It has gained sentience and started replicating.
I’ve been a diehard Villanova fan since Day 1 and I waited my whole life to witness what happened last night. What an unbelievable finish to an incredible season headlined by unselfish play, unmatched intensity and clutch moments.
‘Nova 100% earned that title. They had to go through Kansas, the No.1 overall seed, Oklahoma, a team with the best player in the country, and North Carolina, another No.1 seed and powerhouse. This team was on a mission, and they finished it!
It was a pleasure to watch this Villanova team play all season and I’m honored to have had the privilege of seeing them play in person twice this season. I’ll never forget this team or that one shining moment.
‘Nova Nation… #PartyLikeIts2016