NCAA Tournament: Kansas beats North Carolina 72-69 to win national title


NEW ORLEANS — Best. Return. Never. Sounds pretty good next to Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.

What looked like a lost cause turned into one of the greatest victories Kansas has ever had.

The Jayhawks brought home their fourth NCAA title to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday with a second-half flurry that erased a 16-point deficit and ultimately defeated North Carolina 72-69 in an epic powershot battle.

It was the greatest comeback in national championship history, surpassing the 1963 title game when Loyola overcame a 15-point deficit to beat Cincinnati at the buzzer, 60-58.

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“We just locked ourselves in as a family, as a team, and that’s what we’re doing,” Kansas big man David McCormack said after scoring the game’s final two baskets. “We overcome obstacles. We overcome adversity. We are just built for this.”

McCormack scored the go-ahead bucket from close range with 1:21 left, then another in the 22nd second to give the Jayhawks a three-point lead.

North Carolina has missed its last four shots, including Caleb Love’s Desperation 3 at the buzzer. His uplift was short after officials ruled Kansas guard DaJuan Harris Jr. went out on an inbounds pass with 4.3 seconds left.

The Tar Heels went scoreless through the 1:41 final. They couldn’t find an answer for KU in the last 20 minutes.

“They would come in and do whatever they wanted,” Love said.

After McCormick’s bucket, Love headed for the basket but his shot was blocked. North Carolina grabbed an offensive rebound and handed the ball to Armando Bacot under the bucket. But he lost his footing and turned it over, then limped off the pitch, unable to come back.

“I thought I really had the angle I wanted, then I rolled my ankle,” Bacot said.

That put the not-so-good defender Brady Manek on McCormack, and the Kansas big man backed Manek up for the shot that put the Jayhawks ahead by three.

“When we needed to get a basket, we went to Big Dave, and he delivered,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who has two of the program’s four championships.

McCormack and Jalen Wilson led KU with 15 points apiece. Christian Braun scored 10 of 12 in the second half and transfer Remy Martin scored 11 of 14 in the final 20 minutes. The Jayhawks outscored Carolina 47-29 in the second half.

“When we saw our own blood, we didn’t panic and came out of the second half feeling hot,” Self said. “I was thinking in the 14th minute, ‘There’s no way these guys can play for 20 minutes like this’, but they did.”

The Tar Heels shot 11 of 40 in the second half.

But it was Kansas that couldn’t buy a basket late in the first half, as Carolina raced over and around the Jayhawks on a 16-0 run. The Tar Heels led 40-25 at the break. Then, top-seeded KU (34-6) began to trap and press more, moving the ball on offense, and Carolina began to get a taste of what everyone has this season: you don’t can’t stop them all.

The Jayhawks led a 31-10 run to take a six-point lead in the 10th minute and put together a fantastic finish.

Bacot had 15 points and 15 rebounds to become the first player to record double-doubles in all six tournament games. He finished the season with 31 double-doubles, but it wasn’t enough. Carolina was trying to join Villanova in 1985 as the second 8 seed to win March Madness.

Instead, the Tar Heels (29-10) lost a win and fell to 6-6 all-time in title games. It was their record 21st – and perhaps most unlikely – trip to the Final Four. They reached the final beating Duke in a home-and-away thriller and sending Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski into retirement.

“I can’t remember a time in my life when I should have been disappointed,” said UNC rookie coach Hubert Davis, who was trying to become the first person to lead a team to a title in his first full year as head coach. “But I am filled with so much pride.”

A great season – but the banner will hang in Lawrence.

And McCormack, thanks to his late-game heroics, will go down in KU lore, along with Mario Chalmers (2008), Danny Manning (and the Miracles in 1988) and the rest of the Kansas greats.

This title took three years to prepare. KU was 28-3 and the odds favorite in March 2020. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and stopped both the Jayhawks and the season, in their tracks.

Seven players from that list also feature on this one. In some of them, there was no “what could have been” about 2020 – they knew they would have won it. They won this one instead and showed, once again, that counting them is never good.

While it wasn’t quite the 47-15 thrashing they inflicted on Miami in the final 20 minutes of the Elite Eight, it was still pretty darn impressive considering the circumstances.

Ochai Agbaji, who was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, finished with 12 points and found breathing room after UNC lockout goalie Leaky Black committed his fourth foul 6 minutes into the game. the start of the second period.

“It’s a special group of guys,” Agbaji said. “We’re making history. All I have to say is, ‘Rock Chalk, baby. “”

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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