Stunning Finish to NCAA Tournament Capped by Villanova’s Buzzer-Beater

Conor McLaughlin ‘16, Co-Sports Editor

In a breathtaking 77-74 win over the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, the Villanova Wildcats are the newest champions of college basketball. After producing incredible runs to the title game, the Wildcats and Tar Heels capped off the NCAA tournament with one of the best all-time finishes in the championship game. With just 4.7 seconds left to play, Carolina’s Marcus Page made an unthinkable three-pointer to tie the game at 74, and to force what many assumed would be overtime. Yet somehow, someway, Ryan Arcidiacono was able to find teammate Kris Jenkins who beat the buzzer to seal the instant classic victory for Villanova.

After several years of disappointing play in the tournament for Coach Jay Wright’s teams, he has finally brought the championship back to Villanova, who last won in 1985. The Wildcats proved their worth all season long in the Big East and made their way to Houston thanks to an improbable 64-59 win against Kansas in the Elite Eight and a ridiculous 95-51 victory over Oklahoma last Saturday.

Against Oklahoma, many viewed the Sooners as likely favorites thanks to the play of guard Buddy Hield. Yet the real story became the great play of the Wildcats who put on a tremendous display of great offense and defense. They were able to hold Hield to only 9 points on the night and the Wildcats scored at will, led by Josh Hart’s 23 points and Monday’s hero Kris Jenkins’ 18.

North Carolina also took care of business against unlikely Final Four opponent Syracuse, winning 83-66. Despite the perennial success of the Orange, they were not expected to make it to Houston in 2016. Syracuse’s unexpected run came to an anticlimactic end against Roy Williams and the Tar Heels, despite another strong performance by Malachi Richardson.        The national championship was close from the get-go as both teams came firing out of the gate. Somewhat uncharacteristically, the Tar Heels were 7-9 from beyond the arc in the beginning period, led by Joel Berry II’s 15 points. However, Villanova looked relatively strong and poised after their big victory over the weekend. Two early fouls on Kris Jenkins posed a problem early on, but they only trailed UNC by five points at the half, 39-34.

The tables began to turn when Villanova jumped out to their first lead of the second half at the 13:33 mark. The Wildcats would extend it to 10 points with just 4:42 remaining in the game.

Roy Williams’s team would not give up and made key shots down the stretch. With a 1:30 left they only trailed by three points and forced a key Villanova turnover. After going back and forth, Marcus Page miraculously got his own rebound and made a layup to keep the game within one.

Page stole the show once more with one of the biggest shots of the entire tournament to tie the game at 74-74 with just four seconds left. But it was not enough.

Kris Jenkins made the shot of his life at the buzzer to seal the win for the Wildcats. It was a fitting end to what has been perhaps the most enjoyable and unpredictable NCAA Tournament in recent memory.