HOUSTON — One amazing shot deserved another. Kris Jenkins of Villanova got the final say.
Jenkins overcame the shock of watching North Carolina's Marcus Paige hit a double-clutch 3 to tie it by spotting up behind the right side of the arc and draining a 3 of his own at the buzzer to lift Villanova to a 77-74 victory and the national championship Monday night.
The second-seeded Wildcats (35-5), had a six-point lead with 1:52 left, but watched it slowly trickle away. Then, it was gone, when Paige jumped — and with Ryan Arcidiacono running at him — double clutched and pumped one from beyond the arc to tie the game at 74 with 4.7 seconds left.
After a timeout, Arcidiacono took the inbound pass from Jenkins, worked the ball upcourt and got it back to the junior guard. He took two quick stutter steps and swished it from about two steps behind the 3-point line.
He finished with 14 points — the last three as memorable as any that have been scored in the history of this tournament.
Jenkins, who was adopted by the family of North Carolina guard Nate Britt, now has a spot with Keith Smart, Lorenzo Charles, Christian Laettner and anyone else who ever made a late game-winner to win a big one.
Paige finished with 21 for the Heels (33-7), the only No. 1 seed to make the Final Four, who came one agonizing shot short of giving coach Roy Williams his third national title.
Not surprisingly, the tears flowed from a coach who, some speculate, could have worked his last game on the sideline; the entire sports program at Chapel Hill is under NCAA scrutiny and awaiting possible penalties for a long-running academic-fraud case.
His thought when he saw the last shot fly: "It was helpless. It was not a good feeling."
Even MJ felt the pain. In the stands with the thousands of Carolina Blue-wearing fans, Michael Jordan simply nodded, smiled, looked at his buddy Ahmad Rashad and said, "Good shot, good shot."
Before Jenkins did his thing, it was sophomore Phil Booth — one of the many unheralded players on that Villanova squad — pouring in a career high 20 points to give the Cats their late six-point lead.
Booth's forced turnaround jumper with the shot-clock blaring, then a free throw from Josh Hart gave Villanova a 70-64 lead with 1:52 left.
But Carolina never quits. Paige sandwiched a 3-pointer and a putback around a bucket from Brice Johnson (14 points, eight rebounds) to help the Tar Heels stay within striking range. Then, he tied the game and the Carolina fans went wild.
It looked like overtime.
Because of Jenkins, there would be no overtime.