By EDDIE PELLS
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Best. Come back. je. Sounds pretty good alongside Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.
What seemed like a losing streak turned into one of the sweetest wins of all time for Kansas.
The Jayhawks reclaimed their fourth NCAA title from Allen Fieldhouse on Monday thanks to a second-half excitement that erased a 16-point deficit and eventually defeated North Carolina 72-69 in an epic battle of power programs.
It was the biggest comeback in national championship history, surpassing the 1963 title game when Loyola overcame a 15-point deficit and defeated Cincinnati 60-58.
“We just bonded as a family, as a team, and we do,” said David McCormack, the big Kansas man after scoring the last two baskets of the game. “We overcome the odds. We overcome adversity. That’s what we’re built for.”
McCormack scored the go-ahead bucket from close range with 1:21 to go, then another at the 22-second mark to put the Jayhawks up by three.
North Carolina missed its last four shots, including Caleb Love’s Desperate 3 on the buzzer. His lift came shortly after officials ruled that Kansas guard DaJuan Harris Jr. got out on an inbounds pass with 4.3 seconds remaining.
The Tar Heels went scoreless over the final 1:41. You couldn’t find an answer for KU in the last 20 minutes.
“They penetrated and did what they wanted,” Love said.
After McCormick’s go-ahead, Love drove to the basket, but his shot was blocked. North Carolina grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball under the bucket to Armando Bacot. But he lost his footing and flipped it, then limped off and couldn’t return.
“I thought I really had the angle I wanted, and then I just twisted my ankle,” Bacot said.
That put Brady Manek, a not-so-good defender, on McCormack, and the big Kansas man assisted Manek for the shot that put the Jayhawks three clear.
“When we needed a miss, 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 by 15 points each. Christian Braun scored 10 of his 12 in the second half and Transferremy Martin had 11 of his 14 in the last 20 minutes. The Jayhawks beat Carolina 47-29 in the second half.
“When we saw our own blood, we didn’t panic and came out of the second half hot,” Self said. “I thought at the 14-minute mark, ‘There’s no way these guys can play 20 minutes of defense like that,’ but they did.”
The Tar Heels shot 11 for 40 in the second half.
But it was Kansas who failed to buy a basket late in the first half as Carolina ran over and around the Jayhawks during a 16-0 run. At the break, the Tar Heels led 40:25. Then top seed KU (34-6) started catching and pressing more, moving the ball on offense, and Carolina got a taste of what everyone else has this season: You can’t stop them all.
The Jayhawks took a six-point lead after 10 minutes on a 31-10 run and pulled off a fantastic finish.
Bacot became the first player to hit double-doubles in all six tournament games with 15 points and 15 rebounds. He finished the season with 31 double-doubles, but it wasn’t enough. Carolina attempted to join Villanova in 1985 as she was only the second 8 seed to win March Madness.
Instead, the Tar Heels (29-10) missed a win and fell to an all-time 6-6 in title games. This was her 21st – and possibly highly unlikely – trip to the Final Four. They made it to the finals by defeating Duke in a back-and-forth thriller and retiring Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“I can’t remember a time in my life where I was disappointed,” said rookie UNC coach Hubert Davis, who in his first full year as head coach attempted to become the first person to lead a team to a title. “But I’m filled with so much pride.”
A great season – but the banner will be in Lawrence.
And McCormack will go down in KU lore thanks to his late-game exploits alongside Mario Chalmers (2008), Danny Manning (and the Wonders of 1988) and the rest of the Kansas greats.
This title was three years in the making. KU was 28-3 and the clear favorite heading into March 2020. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, halting both the Jayhawks and the season in their tracks.
Seven players from that squad are also in this one. In some of their minds there was no “what could have been” about 2020 – they knew they’d won it. They won this one instead, showing once again that counting them out is never a good thing.
While this wasn’t quite the 47-15 win they gave Miami to the Elite Eight in the last 20 minutes, it was still pretty damn impressive considering the circumstances.
Ochai Agbaji, named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, finished the game with 12 points and found air after UNC’s lockdown guard Leaky Black committed his fourth foul 6 minutes into the second half.
“This is a special group of guys,” Agbaji said. “We’re going down in history. All I have to say is, ‘Rock chalk, baby.'”
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https://www.twincities.com/2022/04/05/jayhawks-rally-rock-north-carolina-72-69-to-win-ncaa-title/ Jayhawks Rally, Rocks North Carolina 72-69 To Win NCAA Title – Twin Cities