HOUSTON, Tx., (CBS) — Greatness goes by in whispers. It’s seldom recognized when you’re actually watching it unfold, simply because you can’t comprehend it until it’s finished.
Now it’s over.
And now they belong to legend, on that first-name pantheon with Rollie, Gary, Dwayne, Harold, Ed and Harold.
After this amazing NCAA Tournament run, the 2015-16 Villanova Wildcats will go down as the best college basketball team ever in Philadelphia’s basketball-rich history after Kris Jenkins’ three-point buzzer beater gave Villanova a 77-74 victory over favored North Carolina Monday night at the NRG Stadium, in Houston, Texas.
It’s the first time Villanova has won the NCAA national championship since Rollie Massimino and his guys pulled off the “Perfect Upset” over Georgetown in 1985, 31 years ago.
And you can add Jay, Arch, Kris, Josh, Daniel, Jalen, Mikal and Phil to the names of previous Wildcat greats that will have an enduring legacy in the annals of not only local hoops, but all of college basketball.
This game will also go down as one of the greatest championships in the history of the NCAA.
As was typical with this Villanova team, someone was going to come to the fore and do something that they haven’t done before. On Monday night, it was sophomore guard Phil Booth coming off the bench to score a career-best 20 points, followed by Ryan Arcidiacono’s 16, Jenkins’ 14 and Josh Hart’s 12 points.
After Carolina’s Marcus Paige took a wacky, off balance three pointer that somehow, someway fell through that tied the game at 74-74 with 4.7 left to play, Villanova called time to run a play. It’s one thing to plan it, another to have it work out as perfectly as it did, when with mere seconds hanging on the clock, Arcidiacono got the ball into the frontcourt, shoveled a pass to Jenkins who nailed the last-second shot.
Villanova coach Jay Wright didn’t know how to react. He was stunned as everyone else, as a second seemed like minutes waiting for the refs to approve the shot on replay.
“I can’t wait to see that look, because I was just shocked, they did it,” Wright said. “Ryan Arcidiacono made a great look and Kris Jenkins has been incredible all year and we have to first give credit to North Carolina. We beat a class program, a great coach and a great team. We have an end-of-a-game-situation play like that and out it in Arch’s hands, and it’s Arch’s job to make the decision. Kris told him he was going to be open and Arch made the perfect pass. Kris Jenkins lives for that moment.”
“Like coach said, Ryan made the perfect pass and every time I one-two step, it’s going up,” Jenkins said. “I think every shot is going in, so that shot was no different.”
Pressuring the ball outside was working well for Villanova. It forced time off the shot clock for Carolina, and did a decent job of eliminating the Tar Heels bigs early on. Offensively, Villanova’s deliberate, slow-it-up tempo dictated the pace of the game. The Wildcats made Carolina play defense for 25-, 30-second intervals, and when teams are forced to do that, they tend to tire and reach. During one sequence in the first half, North Carolina was called for eight-straight fouls.
But it was North Carolina’s size that had created a 39-34 halftime lead. Joel Berry III had 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range. Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson combined for 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, while Villanova was hammered on the glass, 15-9, with the Tar Heels snaring 5 offensive rebounds.
“This is an unbelievable to go out,” said Arcidiacono, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. “I believed in my teammates and we just fought and make the plays at the end of the game.”
“This is a special team full of special players and everyone who loved each other,” Hart said.
“Dreams have come true tonight,” Daniel Ochefu said, “and we play for those who came before us, go Cats, go Cats!”
— Jan Carabeo (@JanCarabeoCBS3) April 5, 2016