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Kansas defeats North Carolina becoming Champions of the 2022 Men’s NCAA Tournament
On Monday, April 4th, 2022 the University Kansas Jayhawks faced off against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball March Madness Tournament Finals. Although the final score was very close determining that this highly – competitive ball game was a 1 – possession game when the time on the clock hit 0.00. This game was definitely a tale of two completely different halves.
After a strong start to the tournament final Kansas entered their locker room, they were unfortunately for them down 15 points to North Carolina Tar Heels at halftime of the NCAA men's basketball national championship game with the halftime score of 40 to 25.
McCormack Smiles at his Teammates during the Halftime Break
For some reason the Kansas Jayhawks power forward / center, David McCormack, could not help but smile at his other teammates in the Kansas locker room of the Superdome located in New Orleans, Louisiana. This absolutely baffled and confused the Kansas Jayhawks guard Christian Braun.
"I was like, why are you smiling, dude? We're down 15," Braun explained. "He was telling me, keep your head up, keep going, we'll be all right. I was like, man, I don't know if I've ever been here before. Down 15 in a national championship game. I've definitely never been there."
The Huge Comeback
Although McCormack seemed strange to his teammates by smiling at them at halftime, he ultimately backed up his strong feelings of confidence in KU’s basketball team by splashing in 2 – huge hook shots in the paint late in the contest. David’s big - time buckets definitely helped the Kansas Jayhawks erase a 16 - point 1st - half deficit in order to for Kansas to eventually defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels with a final score of 72 to 69 on last Monday night.
This victory provided the University of Kansas’ their 4th NCAA men’s basketball championship title as well as the Jayhawks’ 1st since 2008. The 16 - point deficit was the largest ever overcome to win a championship as Kansas has now surpassed the previous NCAA record of 15 - points that was set by the Loyola of Chicago Ramblers versus the Cincinnati Bearcats way back in 1963.
Some of the questions and concerns regarding the North Carolina Tar Heels coming out slow or flat following their extremely emotional and hard – fought semifinal tournament victory over the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Final Four last Saturday seemed to be an issue right off the bat in this game as Kansas opened the basketball game on a 7 to 0 run throughout the initial first few opening minutes of this match - up.
Kansas built a quick lead early on, with the Kansas Jayhawks' 2 stars from their Final Four game on Saturday versus Villanova, Ochai Agbaji as well as McCormack, who carried -- carrying their momentum over from last Saturday’s beat down over the Villanova Wildcats.
Agbaji knocked down an open 3 - pointer to begin all scoring in the final game of the college basketball season. McCormack was making an impact at both ends of the floor both offensively and defensively as he was continuously feed the ball down in the low post by his Jayhawk teammates. McCormack even beat Armando Bacot to a loose ball as he aggressively dove to ground to keep the possession going for Kansas.
The 9 to 3 start by Kansas in combination with Bacot's partially sprained ankle, set the tone that this was the Kansas Jayhawks' championship title to lose, but that was basically the last time that KU carried any sort of momentum during the first half of game action.
Armando, who had endured and decided to play through an ankle injury that occurred late in the 2nd - half of Saturday's game against Duke, began to loosen up and spark the energy of the Tar Heels team. He hit a jump hook coming out of the under - 16 - minute - timeout, and he assisted on a Leaky Black layup just 2 - possessions later. Both R. J. Davis as well as Bacot saved loose balls from making their way out of bounds.
Remy Martin just so happened to bank in a 3 - point shot with around 10 - minutes left in the first half which provided the Jayhawks an 18 to 14 advantage, but North Carolina outscored the Kansas 25 to 7 the remainder of the 1st – half of this game.
The Jayhawks only were able to sink 3 - shots from the field, and Kansas seemed to miss a whole lot of easy layups towards the end of the first half. They finished the 1st - half be successful on just 4 of their 14 layup attempts during that time which is obviously not a very good percentage on what should be easy points for the Jayhawks.
Agbaji cut the North Carolina lead to 13 – points with a pull - up jump shot of his own with 23 only seconds left prior to halftime, but the UNC guard, Puff Johnson, pulled down a crucial offensive board followed up by Johnson taking advantage of an easy scoring opportunity extending North Carolina’s lead back up to 15 – points by halftime.
According to the history of NCAA men’s basketball the Tar Heels 15 - point lead at halftime was tied for the 4th - largest halftime lead in a NCAA championship title game. That eventually ended up becoming the biggest halftime deficit that was ultimately overcome in a national championship title contest.
Entering Monday night, the Kansas Jayhawks had been losing at the halftime break only once in this year's exciting as well as entertaining 2022 NCAA March Madness tournament. It was in Kansas’ Elite Eight battle vs. the Miami Hurricanes. The Kansas Jayhawks turned a 6 - point halftime deficit eventually in to a dominating 26 - point win for the Jayhawks. They out - scored the Miami Hurricanes 47 to 15 over the course of the last 20 - minutes of that Elite Eight game. Following that performance, the Kansas Jayhawks’ head coach Bill Self said, "We need to play better."
Self claimed that he asked his team 1 - question at the final timeout prior to halftime, "Which would be harder, being down nine with two minutes left or being down 15 with 20?"
That scenario was clearly a reference to the Jayhawks' last national championship title win, when Kansas came back from being down 9 – points down with only 2 – minutes and 12 – seconds remaining in that game in order to defeat the Memphis Tigers back in 2008.
"He obviously challenged us, and he was amped up in there," Agbaji stated about his coach Bill Self. "It was a matter of us playing our game and taking away what they were getting at in the first half."
Out for Vengeance
Kansas came out of halftime with intense vigor and energy as they had one goal in mind, McCormack aggressively slammed down a dunk on the Kansas Jayhawks' opening possession of the second half. Following 2 – baskets made by Caleb Love the lead was extended back out to 12 – points, but KU went on an explosive and entertaining 12 to 1 run after that to get their squad back within only 1 - point.
The Jayhawks seemed to be too fast as they ran a lot of quick transition basketball techniques on UNC. North Carolina turned it over a stunning 4 - times over the initial 8 - minutes of the 2nd - half, and they were settling for long jump shot that led to long rebounds, and the Jayhawks turned those into 6 - quick fast - break points.
A 3 by Agbaji tied the score at 50 apiece, and KU pushed their lead out to 6 following a Martin 3 – pointer as well as a Jalen Wilson traditional 3 - point play. Kansas eventually constructed a 31 to 10 run to begin the 2nd – half of this huge game for both sides.
The Tar Heels’ response to that streak by Kansas was highlighted by the most unlikely of the North Carolina ballers in Johnson, who turned out 8 – total points over their last 4 - games, who nailed a corner 3 off a Davis drive and assist to tie it up at 57 – points each.
With Black on the bench, the head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, Hubert Davis, needed one of his bench players to step up big for UNC, and Johnson was that guy as Bacot was struggling on his bum ankle. At one point during the 2nd - half, Johnson racked up 7 - consecutive points for Carolina.
"My whole thing this whole year has been just to stay ready whenever your number is called," Johnson expressed. "I can honestly just say that I gave it everything I had."
The Jayhawks 2nd - half catalyst seemed to be one of their bench players in Remy Martin. Martin has been a player who divides opinions of him by others during his college basketball playing career. He is no doubt a strong and talented player offensively, but he raised some questions and concerns that his game would translate well at KU after he transferred there after beginning his college basketball career playing for the Arizona State Sun Devils, where Martin was a 2 - time All – Pac – 12 player who averaged 19.1 points in both 2020 and 2021.
"He's got a flair about him; when the game's tight, he likes it," Self said about Remy Martin. "I like that. I think he'll fight back. I think the experiment is going to work out fine."
Martin seemed to be tentative early as he didn’t take many shots, but may have been the best player for the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2nd – half of this game. Remy recorded 11 - points following the halftime break that including 3 3’s as well as 3 – go – ahead buckets.
"This year has been a tough year individually for me, just injuries and just hard to find a groove sometimes. But it felt great," says Martin. "In the second half, I just came in there, tried to make something happen and shot the shots with confidence and just tried to make plays."
McCormack sunk an outstanding baby - jump - hook - shot with just 1:20 remaining after an offensive rebound in order to give KU a 1 - point advantage. On North Carolina's following possession, Bacot tried to drive past McCormack, but ultimately re - injured himself after slipping and falling, and Bacot had to exit the contest for the rest of the game.
With Bacot out, the Jayhawks went right back to McCormack, and once again he nailed another baby - jump - hook with only 22 - seconds this time, and Kansas had a 3 – point lead at this point.
Love and Johnson then came up unsuccessful on their game - tying 3 - point shots, and Brady Manek's pass after an offensive rebound made its way out of bounds, but the North Carolina Tar Heels got one more chance, as Dajuan Harris Jr. stepped out of bounds after an inbound pass with just 4.3 - seconds remaining.
Love, who had hit big shots throughout the 2022 NCAA men ‘s basketball March Madness tournament, had a highly - contested 3 - point attempt over Braun, but it fell way short as the game clock struck 0.00.
UNC's backcourt duo of Love and Davis had been so effective and successful all tournament long, but they struggled to get in a shooting rhythm on Monday night especially down town. They shot a combined 10 – for – 41 from the field, which included 1 – for – 13 from the 3 – point line. Bacot accumulated 15 - points and 15 - rebounds, becoming the first player in NCAA history with 6 – double – doubles in one NCAA tournament run.
Whereas, McCormack and Wilson both finished the game with 15 – points, but it was Agbaji (14 - points) who took home the Most Outstanding Player honors.
"He's the most accomplished player that we have had at our university since Danny [Manning]," Self said regarding Agbaji.
Following this championship, Self hugged some of Kansas’ ex – players such as Drew Gooden, Paul Pierce, Mario Chalmers, and Devon Dotson.
"To me, this was partially won for them too," Self goes on to say about his 2020 Kansas Jayhawks team. "It's partially won for them, because I always thought the 2020 team was better, more equipped to do well in the NCAA tournament. After the way these guys played in the last month, I think this team can play with any team Kansas has ever put on the floor."
“Jayhawks remind everyone of link to basketball history with unique uniforms”, Heidi Schmidt, fox4kc.com, October 15, 2021.
“Kansas stages historic comeback to beat North Carolina in down – to – the – wire thriller for NCAA men's basketball title”, Jeff Borzello, espn.com, April 4, 2022.
“Kansas comes back, wins NCAA title 3 years in the making”, espn.com, April 4, 2022.
Written by: David Green