Villanova seizes NCAA title on Jenkins' three at buzzer

HOUSTON - Villanova won the national championship with a miracle finish in 1985, and it pulled off another miracle Monday night to win it all once again - 31 years later.

In the final 4.7 seconds, Ryan Arcidiacono dribbled up the court and found Kris Jenkins with a perfect pass, enabling Jenkins to knock down the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer and giving the Wildcats their second national championship in school history with an incredible 77-74 victory over North Carolina at NRG Stadium.

The second-seeded Wildcats (35-5) finished a magical run through the NCAA tournament with another explosive offensive performance and good defense, but they needed every ounce of fortitude after the Tar Heels (33-7), a No. 1 seed, came all the way back from a 10-point deficit to tie the game, 74-74, on Marcus Paige's three-point basket with 4.7 seconds left.

Villanova coach Jay Wright called timeout to draw up a play that he described as "an end-of-the-game situation where we put the ball in Arch's hands and let him make the decision."

Arcidiacono went around a screen from Daniel Ochefu and then made the decision to pass to Jenkins.

"Kris told me he'd be open," Arcidiacono said.

"I was like, 'Ryan, Ryan, Ryan,' " Jenkins said. "When I get it, it's going up. I always think it's going in and this was no different."

Jenkins released the ball with 0.5 seconds remaining and it swished through, touching off a wild celebration with players pouring off the bench and streamers and confetti being released from above in the cavernous football stadium.

Shortly after the players' celebration began, Jenkins broke off and found his mother, Felicia. He stepped over a press table and got her in a long hug, tears flowing from both faces.

"We just made the plays at the end of the game," Arcidiacono said. "This is just something that every kid dreams about. To watch him knock down that shot . . . this is the end of just an unbelievable career."

Wright, who looked numb after the shot went in, told CBS: "I wasn't sure what happened. I can't wait to see the replay."

Arcidiacono was named most outstanding player of the Final Four, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Josh Hart and Phil Booth.

"Ryan Arcidiacono, he's one of the best players I've ever played with," Jenkins said. "For a senior to get the ball and make the right play and not try to shoot the ball in double coverage just shows a lot about him and what he's about and how he's just all about winning."

The City of Philadelphia, meanwhile, is consulting with Villanova about a parade.

Many of the Wildcats' players from the 1985 title team, plus head coach Rollie Massimino, were in the crowd of 74,340. That team shot 78.6 percent for the game and 90 percent in the second half in 'Nova's 66-64 upset of Georgetown for the 1985 national championship.

Playing his 144th career game, a program record, Arcidiacono scored 16 points, hitting 6 of 9 shots from the field and 2 of 3 from three-point range. Jenkins added 14 despite playing just 21 minutes because of foul trouble.

But before Jenkins' shot, the offensive hero of the night for Villanova was sophomore guard Phil Booth, who had scored only 27 points in 'Nova's five previous tournament games but scored a career-high 20 Monday night. Booth hit both of his three-point shots and sank 6 of 7 shots overall, mostly on drives to the hoop.

Paige led the Tar Heels with 21 points and Joel Berry II added 20, but the Wildcats did a decent job holding Carolina's big men, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, in check. Johnson scored 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds but had just one offensive board. Meeks shot just 1 of 8 and scored four points with seven rebounds.

The Tar Heels outrebounded Villanova, 36-23, but the Wildcats outscored the Tar Heels, 32-26, in the paint.

Villanova shot 58.3 percent from the field, continuing its hot shooting in the tournament, and knocked down 8 of 14 three-point attempts, none more important that the last one by Jenkins.

The Wildcats dug in on defense in the second half, limiting the Tar Heels to 34.3 percent shooting. At one point of the period, they held them to one field goal in a 7:24 stretch as they came back from a seven-point deficit. A 7-0 run that ended with two free throws from Booth gave them a 67-57 lead with 5:29 remaining.

The Tar Heels, however, mounted a comeback starting with seven straight points to get to within 67-64, but Booth's fallaway shot in the lane at the end of the 30-second clock put the Cats in front by five with just over three minutes to play.

Jenkins missed the front end of a one-and-one and Hart made just 1 of 2 free throws to make it a six-point advantage, but Paige knocked down a three-pointer on a second-chance opportunity with 1:33 to play to make it a three-point game.

A double-teamed Arcidiacono then threw a wild pass out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Tar Heels, and Johnson scored on a short bank shot, cutting 'Nova's lead to 70-69 with 1:06 to play. Booth got the ball on the Wildcats' next possession, found himself in trouble, and bumped Isaiah Hicks to draw a foul, and sank two free throws for a three-point lead.

After Paige got the rebound of his own miss and scored to make it 72-71, Hart sank two foul shots with 13.5 seconds to play. Paige then struck again, sidestepping a diving Daniel Ochefu going for the steal, hanging in the air and draining a three-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to tie the score at 74, setting up one of the most memorable finishes in NCAA history.

jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq