A crowd of college basketball powers gave a game to the age group in Monday night’s national title game, beating Kansas 72-69 from a 16-point deficit to win the program’s fourth national championship. Jayhawks’ furious rally highlighted Loyola-Chicago’s 15-point comeback against Cincinnati from the 1963 title game.
David McCormack scored a crucial co-lead lay-off with 1:21 remaining, giving Kansas a 70-69 lead. Then, he added another bucket with 22 seconds left to shift to the 72-69 edge. North Carolina consistently missed 3-pointers.
Kansas jumped to a 7-0 lead at the start, but went 40-18 in the first half as the Tar Heels dominated the attacking class, entering the 18-2 margin with a second chance at the break. But at half-time coach Bill Self told Jayhocks that miracles did happen, with KU exploding 31-10 from the locker room.
McCormack finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds and the clutch was particularly late when battling the injured UNC big man Armando Pacot. Thar Heels’s junior center was playing on a twisted ankle when he was injured again while maneuvering a potential Co-Ahead bucket at the last minute. But he got McCormick’s best play in the first half, before McCormick brought the lead plays to an epic ending.
Here are excerpts from the Classic National title game that took place in New Orleans on Monday night.
Recovery of David McCormack
When David McCormick hit a jumper within a minute to give the Jayhawks a 5-0 lead, he seemed to be making progress where he left off in Saturday’s semi-final win over Villanova. In that 81-65 KU win, he scored the most 25 points of the season. As Bacot hobbled and McCormack boosted confidence in Saturday’s performance, initial earnings suggested Jayhawks may have an edge on the inside.
Pagot struggled early, but at half-time, the injured UNC warrior again got McCormack’s best, leaving the game with 4:17 left in the first half after he made his second mistake. He was out for 16-0 for North Carolina, and things did not improve in the absence of McCormack.
But in the second half the Cue elder stepped down. He finished with his 11th double of the season, and in the final two minutes his two baskets made the difference. It’s a volatile life for McCormick, who wrapped up the game on Monday. Eventually, he elevated the Jay Hawks to a national title and it ended up being huge.
Participating players are formed
Remy Martin, Christian Brown and Johnson Wilson all combined to score 3 of 18 off the field in the first half for Kansas. In the second half, the same three players combined to score 13 of 18 shots from the field. Wilson added McCormick with 15 points, and Brown added a double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Martin, meanwhile, scored all four of his shot attempts in the second half, including a three-pointer.
Although Akbaji and McCormack were the most important players for this Kansas team throughout the season, what set the Jayhawks apart was their role players. In particular, the energetic play of Brown and Wilson, with their unique size and versatility, made KU a tough competition all season.
Since Akbaji, Martin and McCormack are seniors on this season’s squad, the Brown and Wilson scene will only be a preview of things to come. Although the NBA draft could test water or both, the pair of dynamic playmakers could turn Kansas back into national champions if they return next season.
UNC has no star power
Pagot put Dar Heels on his back in the first half but the case was settled in the second half, leaving the ground at 0 for 6 after the break. With 50 seconds left, he twisted his injured right ankle back and fell to the ground in agony as Tar Heels moved towards the basket 70-69 backward.
The play was a symbol of how Pagot gave up everything he had before hitting a breaking point in the final minute of the game. With guards RJ Davis and Caleb Love shooting 10 of 41 off the ground, North Carolina did not have the firepower needed to keep pace with the Red-hot Jayhawks in the second half.
Isopomore forward Puff Johnson gave a big lift off the bench with 11 points, including nine in the second half, as he played in extended minutes due to a foul problem on the Leakey block. But the UNC team, which received several clutch buckets from Love, Davis, Brady Manek and Pagot, needed one or two more to cross the finish line in a memorable run.
Kansas Jayhawks Championship Gear released
Jayhawks has won his first national title since 2008. You can now buy Kansas championship shirts, hats, jerseys, hoodies and more to celebrate historic success. Now take the gear here.
We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
“Friend of animals everywhere. Devoted analyst. Total alcohol scholar. Infuriatingly humble food trailblazer.”