Nail biter! Villanova nabs victory at NCAA Men’s Championship Game

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The men's NCAA championship game between Villanova and UNC is at 9:19pm ET.

HOUSTON (CNN) — It was a national championship game for the ages.

Junior forward Kris Jenkins’ hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer, and No. 2 seed Villanova won the NCAA men’s basketball national championship in a thriller over No. 1 seed North Carolina, 77-74, at NRG Stadium in Houston.

It’s Villanova’s second championship in program history, the first coming in 1985.

UNC senior guard Marcus Paige’s acrobatic 3-point shot with 4.7 seconds remaining gave UNC life, tying it at 74. Seat cushions flew all over the stadium in celebration.

But it was premature.

Jenkins, who finished the night with 16 points, snuffed out UNC’s hopes of a sixth championship with a dagger as the horn sounded.

A close one throughout

After 10 lead changes in the first half, UNC (33-7) gained control in the final minutes by sweeping the glass for rebounds and knocking down threes (hitting 7 of 9 for 77.8%) and went to the locker room with a 39-34 lead, undoubtedly making Michael Jordan, a UNC alum who was in attendance, happy for the moment.

But in the second half, Villanova (35-5) grabbed the lead with a three from sophomore guard Phil Booth to make it 49-46 with 12:46 remaining.

UNC never regained the lead, denying head coach Roy Williams a third national title.

Senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono kept the momentum going for the Wildcats, scoring nine of Villanova’s next 16 points. With free throws, Booth extended the lead to 67-57 with 5:29 left.

Booth, who started the night on the bench, finished with 20 points to lead Villanova. Arcidiacono finished with 16 and was named Most Outstanding Player.

Paige, who led all scorers with 21 points, cut Villanova’s lead to 72-71 with 22 seconds remaining with a three. He finished four-of-seven from 3-point range.

But Josh Hart sunk two free throws with 13 seconds remaining to extend the lead to 74-71, setting up a frantic finish.

Party like it’s 1985

The Wildcats won their first national championship in 31 years, which is the second-longest drought between titles.

That first one was magical: In 1985, the first time the NCAA tournament had expanded to 64 teams, Villanova, seeded 8th, shot 78.6% from the field — still an NCAA championship record — and defeated No. 1 Georgetown 66-64.

This was the first time that UNC and Villanova have played each other in the national championship game. The Tar Heels were trying to win their sixth championship in their 10th appearance.

There was another type of history associated with this year’s men’s national championship game. It’s the first time it was on cable television. The main game broadcast is on TBS, which like CNN, is a Time Warner company.

This year, parity had been the theme in men’s college basketball.

Throughout the season, there wasn’t one dominant team. Six teams — including UNC and Villanova — have been ranked No. 1 this season. And while it was assumed that the NCAA tournament was up for grabs, Monday night’s final consisted of two of the best teams in the nation.

By Jill Martin