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Jayhawks rally, pulls out North Carolina 72-69 to win NCAA title

NEW ORLEANS – Better. Come back. Always. Sounds pretty good next to Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.

What seemed like a lost cause has become one of Kansas’ sweetest victories.

The Jayhawks returned their fourth NCAA title to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday thanks to a burst of the second half that eliminated a 16-point deficit and eventually outscored North Carolina 72-69 in an epic battle of power programs.

It was the biggest comeback in the history of the national championship, beating the game for the 1963 title, when Loyola overcame a 15-point disadvantage to beat Cincinnati 60-58.

“We just lock ourselves in as a family, as a team, and that’s what we do,” Kansas big man David McCormack said, after making the last two baskets of the game. “We have overcome the odds. We have overcome the adversities. We are just made for that.”

McCormack scored the lead from close range with 1:21 left, then another at 22 seconds to put the Jayhawks ahead by three.

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North Carolina missed its last four shots, including Caleb Love’s Despair 3 on the bell. His impetus came shortly after officers ruled that Kansas escort DaJuan Harris Jr. came out on an inning pass with 4.3 seconds left.

The Tar Heels were goalless at the end of 1:41. Couldn’t find an answer for KU in the last 20 minutes.

“They were penetrating and doing what they wanted,” Love said.

After McCormick’s lead, Love headed for the basket but his shot was blocked. North Carolina grabbed an offensive rebound and took the ball to Armando Bacot under the bucket. But he lost his footing and turned around, then limped off the track, unable to return.

“I thought I really got the angle I wanted and then I just circled my ankle,” Bacot said.

That put Brady Manek, not such a good defender, on McCormack, and the Kansas big backed Manek for the shot that put the Jayhawks ahead by three.

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“When we had to have a basket, we went to Big Dave, and he complied,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who has two of the program’s four championships.

McCormack and Jalen Wilson led KU with 15 points each. Christian Braun scored 10 of his 12 in the second half and Remy Martin’s pass had 11 of his 14 in the final 20 minutes. The Jayhawks outscored Carolina 47-29 in the second half.

“When we saw our own blood, we didn’t panic and came out the second half hot,” Self said. “I was thinking at 14 minutes: ‘There’s no way these guys can play for 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 at the end of the first half, as Carolina ran over and surrounded the Jayhawks during a 16-0 run. The Tar Heels led 40-25 at the break. Then the first seed KU (34-6) started catching and pressing harder, moving the ball into attack, and Carolina started trying what everyone has this season: you can’t stop them all.

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The Jayhawks made a 31-10 run to take a six-point lead in the 10th minute and set up a fantastic finish.

Bacot had 15 points and 15 rebounds to become the first player to record a double-double in all six games of the tournament. He finished the season with 31 doubles-doubles, but it wasn’t enough. Carolina was trying to join the 1985 Villanova as only the second seed in Series 8 to win March Madness.

By contrast, the Tar Heels (29-10) fell to a win and fell to 6-6 of all time in the title games. This was his 21st record trip, and possibly the most unlikely, to the Final Four. They reached the final by beating Duke in a round-robin thriller and retiring Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“I don’t remember a moment in my life when I should have been disappointed,” said UNC rookie coach Hubert Davis, who was trying to become the first person to lead a team to a title in his first full year as head coach. But I’m full of pride. “

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A great season, but the banner will hang on Lawrence.

And McCormack, thanks to his heroism at the end of the game, will go down in KU history, along with Mario Chalmers (2008), Danny Manning (and the miracles in 1988) and the rest of the Kansas greats.

This title was held for three years. KU was 28-3 and the odds favorite for March 2020. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and stopped both the Jayhawks and the season.

Seven players from that squad are also in this. In some of their minds there was no “what could be” about 2020; they knew they would win. Instead, they won this one and proved, once again, that it is never good to tell them.

Although this was not the 47-15 defeat they put Miami in the last 20 minutes at Elite Eight, it was still impressive given the circumstances.

Ochai Agbaji, who was named the top four player in the Final Four, finished with 12 points and found room to breathe after UNC blocking guard Leaky Black made his fourth foul in the 6th minute of the second half.

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“This is a special group of young people,” Agbaji said. “We’re going down in history. All I have to say is, ‘Rock Chalk, girl.'”

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Jayhawks rally, pulls out North Carolina 72-69 to win NCAA title

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