Kansas erased a 16-point deficit in the first half to beat North Carolina 72-69 to claim the program’s fourth national championship.
Down 38-22 in the first half, Kansas completed the largest NCAA Tournament championship comeback ever to beat North Carolina 72-69 to claim the school’s fourth title.
Scoring runs dictated the evening. Kansas opened the game up with a 7-0 strike and North Carolina responded to take its first lead at 12-11.
After a tie at 22, UNC manufactured a 16-0 scoring burst and eventually led 40-25 at the break. The Jayhawks managed just one made field goal and three points over the final six minutes of the half. Kansas’ 16-point deficit was the team’s largest since its 80-62 loss to Kentucky on Jan. 29.
“It was just a matter of us playing our game and executing,” Agbaji said of the comeback.
Three consecutive baskets — a McCormack dunk and two 2-pointers by Braun — quickly brought Kansas within single digits well before the first media timeout of the second period.
“We got the momentum from the defensive end,” McCormack said.
Momentum shifted dramatically moments later. After a Puff Johnson dunk, Agbaji, Wilson and Remy Martin teamed up for nine unanswered points to grab a 56-50 advantage with 10:08 remaining. In just nine minutes and 52 seconds, Kansas managed to flip a 15-point deficit into a 6-point lead, outscoring the Tar Heels 31-10 in the process.
But after a flurry of runs the first 30 minutes of the game, neither team managed to score more than four unanswered points the rest of the way. The largest lead over the final 10 minutes was Kansas by four points, but UNC managed to respond and pull closer every time.
Following a go-ahead layup by Brady Manek — who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds — McCormack grabbed his own miss for a layup to grab the lead back with 22 seconds left. Then, after an Armando Bacot turnover, McCormack had another close bucket to push the Kansas lead to 72-69.
UNC wasn’t able to tie it up with three missed 3-point attempts over the final 15 seconds as Kansas held on to claim the title.
“I think we’re probably all a little overwhelmed and spent,” head coach Bill Self said. “I don’t think I’ve had a team flip a script like that in the NCAA Tournament, whether it be the Miami game in the Elite Eight or tonight.”
Self captured his second national title and his first since the Jayhawks beat Memphis in overtime in the 2008 championship.
“I thought this would be good, but this is a heck of a lot better than I thought it would be,” Self said.