Kansas gets historic comeback to beat UNC for program’s 4th national championship

Kansas gets historic comeback to beat UNC for program’s 4th national championship

A lot of folks went to bed at halftime of the national championship game after North Carolina built a 40-25 lead over Kansas with the Jayhawks looking completely out of sorts. A 35-14 run allowed the Tar Heels to build a 16-point lead in the first half but the Jayhawks came out of the break with a 31-10 push of their own to come back in front. In the end, Kansas hung on for a three-point victory to secure their first national title since 2008.

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The contest wasn’t always crisp throughout but Kansas head coach Bill Self made some critical adjustments in the locker room to change the pace of the game. The Jayhawks came out of the break with a much more aggressive tone, picking up the pace in transition and taking advantage of a strange change in game plan from North Carolina which abandoned their low post game for a large stretch early in the second half.

Highlights from the national championship game

The effort was excellent early from North Carolina, who outworked Kansas after some early jitters. This play saw four different Tar Heels touch the basketball to get a hard-earned bucket.

Brady Manek also caught fire early, knocking down consecutive three-pointers as part of a 13-point night to help North Carolina build its huge early lead.

The low point for Kansas came right before the half, when they failed to box out Puff Johnson on the final shot of the first. Johnson’s determination earned two key points and put UNC up 15 at the break.

The Jayhawks came out of the break firing, however, with a 20-6 run to cut the deficit to one. This layup from Christian Braun in transition embodied the big change in pace for Kansas.

After what felt like an eternity trailing, Kansas finally retook the lead on this corner three from Remy Martin. The Jayhawks got 14 off the bench from Martin, who scored his 2,000th point in the game.

North Carolina didn’t quit, however, fighting back after Kansas’ huge second-half run. Manek’s putback here put the Tar Heels up one with less than two minutes to go.

Kansas’ last four points came from David McCormack, who converted this bucket against Manek after Armando Bacot went down with an ankle injury to put the Jayhawks up for good.

Three takeaways from the national championship game

3. Kansas’ well-balanced scoring made the difference

Five different players scored in double-figures for the Jayhawks, headlined by 15 points each from Jalen Wilson and McCormack. This well-rounded effort made up for some shaky moments from Ochai Agbaji, who missed five free throws and went just 4-for-9 from the floor.

The heroes for Kansas late were Martin, who nailed some clutch shots, and McCormack down low. McCormack took advantage of his size advantage over Manek in the final minutes to secure Kansas’ winning points.

2. North Carolina went away from Bacot too quickly

The first half of the game was dominated by the Tar Heels due in large part to the efforts of Bacot, who secured his record 31st double-double of the season by halftime. Bacot’s rebounding helped make a huge difference for the Tar Heels, who had an 18-2 advantage in second-chance points when they hit the locker room.

It was strange to see North Carolina abandon their inside attack early in the second half, settling for contested perimeter shots while having four players line up outside the three-point line on several occasions. That change made it easier for the Jayhawks to get more rebounds and push the pace in transition, which proved to be the turning point in the game.

1. Kansas pulled off the greatest comeback in national championship history

The Jayhawks looked dead in the water at halftime after trailing by 15 and playing with a lack of fire. Much like they did at halftime of their regional final against Miami, Kansas completely flipped the script after the break, dominating the final 20 minutes to help Self ensure his second national championship.

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