Solid teamwork sparks Villanova to first buzzer-beating title winner in 33 years

Posted: 04/04/2016 in college basketball
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Final Four Saturday is typically one of the best basketball viewing days of the entire year.

It wasn’t good for anybody this year unless you were a Villanova fan as nobody wants to see two blowout games on that fantastic day.

But it was all made up for on Monday with a solid basketball game that included one of the all-time great endings.

You see, it’s kind of hard to top winning the national championship with a buzzer-beating shot.

Villanova junior forward Kris Jenkins etched his name into sports history by nailing the winning 3-pointer as time expired to give the Wildcats a spectacular 77-74 victory over North Carolina.

It is Villanova’s first national title since 1985 when the most famous team in school history – led by Ed Pinckney – upset a powerhouse Georgetown squad led by Patrick Ewing in the title game.

This Villanova squad went 35-5 and won its first five NCAA tournament games by an average of 24.2 points. It let a late 10-point lead slip away before Jenkins’ hoop allowed the Wildcats to hold off a strong North Carolina squad.

In fact, the Tar Heels (33-7) tied the game with 4.7 seconds left when senior point guard Marcus Paige made a miraculous off-balance double-pump 3-point shot. That dramatic basket only turned out to a warm-up act.

You’ve got to like the coolness of senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono as he came up court. He didn’t panic and had the court awareness to underhand the ball to the trailing Jenkins.

“Arch made the perfect pass and Kris Jenkins lives for that moment,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said during the postgame interview on TBS.

Kind of fitting that Arcidiacono landed the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award after that display of teamwork.

“I wanted that shot,” Arcidiacono admitted, “but I have the confidence in my teammates.”

Jenkins, who admits he’s never one to pass up a shot, was making sure Arcidiacono knew he was in close proximity.

“I was like ‘Ryan, Ryan,'” Jenkins said. “Like coach said, he made the perfect pass.”

The flip side was the pain the Tar Heels felt after putting up a strong effort.

Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was among the people struggling with his emotions afterward.

“I’ve been a head coach for 28 years,” Williams said in his interview with TBS, “and the worst thing is on a loss like this I feel so inadequate because I don’t know how to make it better.”

The contest was the first NCAA title game decided as time expired since the famous Jim Valvano-coached North Carolina State team won the 1983 title. On that occasion, Lorenzo Charles grabbed Dereck Whittenberg’s desperation heave to lay in the winning points for a 54-52 victory over a Houston squad featuring Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

That terrific ending now has company and Whittenburg was one of the millions of people tweeting about the Villanova ending.

“That was a pretty amazing pass by Arch. Reminds me of a pass I made once,” Whittenburg wrote.

Of course, nobody but Whittenburg thinks his play was a pass but that’s OK. The ball got to the right guy at the right time.

Just as it did on Monday.

 

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