The college basketball powers meeting in Monday night’s national title game served up a game of the ages as Kansas recovered from a 16-point delay to defeat North Carolina 72-69 and secure the program’s fourth national championship. The Furious Jayhawks’ Rally marked the biggest ever comeback in a national title game, outstripping Loyola-Chicago’s comeback by 15 points against Cincinnati from the 1963 title match.
David McCormack scored the crucial kick-off with 1:21 remaining to put Kansas ahead 70-69. Then he added another bucket 22 seconds ago to bring him a 72-69 edge. North Carolina missed consecutive three-pointers on the possession that followed and an over-the-key look at the bell to cement the score.
Kansas jumped to a 7-0 lead early on but was outdone 40-18 for the rest of the first half as Tar Heels dominated the offensive glass to advance 18-2 on second-chance points to enter the first half. But whatever coach Bill Self said to the Jayhawks at the end of the first half, miracles were marvelous as KU came out of the locker room with a 31-10 spurt.
McCormack finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and was particularly late as he battled injured UNC big man Armando Bacot. The Tar Heels rookie center was playing on a sprained ankle that was injured again while maneuvering for a potential bucket in the last minute. But he got the best of McCormack in the first half before McCormack came up with key plays late on in an epic finish.
Here are some points gleaned from a classic game for the national title Monday night in New Orleans.
Goodbye David McCormack
When David McCormack hit the vault less than a minute into the game to give the Jayhawks a 5-0 lead, he looked like he was recovering right where he held up in Saturday’s semi-final win over Villanova. In that 81-65 KU victory, he scored a season-high 25 points. With Bacot hampered and McCormack riding high on confidence in Saturday’s performance, early returns indicated the Jayhawks might have an advantage on the inside.
Bacot initially struggled, but as the half progressed, the wounded UNC Warrior took advantage of McCormack, who left the match with 4:17 remaining in the first half after making his second foul. His exit came amid North Carolina’s 16-0 run, and things didn’t improve amid McCormack’s absence.
But in the second half, the big guy at KU found a foothold. He finished with his double eleven this season, and two goals in the last two minutes made the difference. McCormack’s career has been choppy, and he exemplified that in Monday’s game. In the end, it ended up being all the more high when he lifted the Jayhawks to a national title.
The trio of Remy Martin, Christian Brown and Jalen Wilson combined to shoot 3-of-18 from the floor in the first half for Kansas. In the second half, these three players combined to make 13 out of 18 shots from the field. Wilson tied McCormack for the team’s highest with 15 points, and Brown added a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, Martin hit all four of his shot attempts in the second half, including a hat-trick of three-pointers.
While Agbagi and McCormack have been the top players for this Kansas team all season, what stood out for the Jayhawks were their role players. In particular, Brown and Wilson’s dynamic play as players with a unique blend of size and variety has made KU a challenging match all season.
With Agbaji, Martin and McCormack as the seniors on the squad this season, the show from Braun and Wilson might just be a preview of what’s to come. While either or both of them could choose to test the waters of the NBA Draft, the pair of dynamic playmakers could make Kansas a contender for repeat as national champions if they return next season.
UNC . Star Energy Runs Out
Bakut put the tar heel on his back in the first half but ran out of gas in the second, going 0-for-6 from the ground after the break. With 50 seconds left, he twisted his injured right ankle again and fell to the ground in agony as he moved toward the basket with tar heels retracted 70-69.
The play was emblematic of how he gave Bacot his all before hitting his breaking point in the last minute of the match. With guards RJ Davis and Caleb Love combining to shoot 10 of 41 off the ground, North Carolina simply lacked the firepower they needed in the second half to keep up with the Jayhawks.
eeSophomore striker Puff Johnson made a big boost off the bench with 11 points, including nine in the second half where he played for long minutes due to a Leaky Black foul. But an UNC squad that had plenty of clutch buckets from Love, Davis, Brady Manek and Bacot in an unforgettable race only needed one or two more to cross the finish line.
Kansas Jayhawks Equipment Launch
The Jayhawks won their first national title since 2008. You can now buy Kansas Championship jerseys, hats, t-shirts, jerseys, and much more to celebrate the historic victory. Get the gear here now.
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