The words "instant classic" get thrown around a lot in sports these days. We, as a society, fall prisoner to the moment on a regular basis.
However, what we witnessed between Villanova and North Carolina on Monday night at NRG Stadium in Houston can accurately be defined as an "instant classic". The Wildcats defeated the Tar Heels 77-74 to win the National Championship. You probably know that by now, so let's talk about how it happened.
The first half was a slugfest, with the teams trading blows and leads, seemingly every time down the floor.
By the end of the first half, North Carolina led 39-34. Uncharacteristically, the Tar Heels were raining threes while missing shots inside. Joel Berry led the charge for UNC, making all three of his attempts from long range early on. Near the end of the first half with the Tar Heels up by seven, Villanova turned the ball over. Looking to have a breakaway to take a nine-point lead, Justin Jackson appeared to slow down a little. In that time, Josh Hart came from behind and blocked Jackson's shot, and Phil Booth hit a shot to bring it within five. A hustle play like that is a perfect example of where Villanova found success in this tournament.
Coming out of the half, both teams were sluggish. All tournament long, both the Wildcats and Tar Heels have been "second half teams", going on big runs to bury their opponents out of the break. That didn't happen on Monday night. Brice Johnson and Jalen Brunson each hit shots to keep UNC's lead at 41-37, with Brunson's coming at the 18:53 mark. In the time that followed, there was one made shot, a Brice Johnson dunk, until the 16 minute mark.
Once Villanova started hitting shots again, Phil Booth took over. Booth, who set a career high in scoring with 20 points, had 13 in the second half. Most Outstanding Player Ryan Arcidiacono had 16 in his final collegiate game.
On defense, Daniel Ochefu did a phenomenal job stopping UNC's big men. Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks combined for just 18 points, as the Tar Heels tried to work the ball outside instead of going after the big man for the Wildcats.
Fast forward to the final ten seconds.
VILLANOVA WAS UP BY THREE. THEN MARCUS PAIGE DID THIS.
TIE GAME. 4.7 TO GO. KRIS JENKINS, YOUR ONE SHINING MOMENT HAS ARRIVED!