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Kansas rallies, beats North Carolina 72-69 to win NCAA title

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji shoots over North Carolina guard Leaky Black during the first half of a college basketball game in the finals of the Men's Final Four NCAA tournament, Monday, April 4, 2022, in New Orleans.
David J. Phillip
Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji shoots over North Carolina guard Leaky Black during the first half of a college basketball game in the finals of the Men's Final Four NCAA tournament, Monday, April 4, 2022, in New Orleans.

Kansas brought its fourth NCAA title back home Monday thanks to a second-half flurry that erased a 16-point deficit and eventually overcame North Carolina 72-69 in an epic battle of power programs.

It was the biggest comeback in title game history, surpassing Kentucky's 10-point rally to beat Utah in 1998.

After the game, North Carolina coach Hubert Davis was emotional, saying his team wore down.

"I should be disappointed but I am filled with so much pride. I'm so proud of what these guys have done for themselves and this team," Davis said. "The way they have represented our university, this program, our community. I can't ask for them to do anything more than they have done and I am extremely proud of what they have done and I am extremely proud of each one of them."

Armando Bacot played despite a badly sprained ankle. He re-injured it with less than a minute remaining and never returned. A last-second Caleb Love three-point attempt would have tied the game for Carolina, but it fell short.

David McCormack scored the go-ahead bucket for Kansas from close range with 1:21 left, then another at the 22-second mark to put the Jayhawks ahead by three.

North Carolina missed its final four shots, going scoreless over the final 1:41, including Love's desperation three at the buzzer. His heave barely grazed rim after officials ruled that Kansas guard DaJuan Harris Jr., stepped out on an inbounds pass with 4.3 seconds left.

After McCormick's go-ahead bucket, Love's shot got blocked but North Carolina got an offensive rebound and fed to Bacot under the bucket. But the big man lost his footing and turned it over, then limped off the court, unable to return.

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

Bacot said his injury affected his mobility all night.

"We all really wanted to win and we came this far. And this was... A huge goal for us was to hang up a banner," Bacot said. "We just really wanted to win and we didn't want anything to stop us from getting to that point. It didn't go the way we wanted, but I mean, I was fine."

Bacot and R.J. Davis led Carolina with 15 points each. Bacot also had 15 rebounds, becoming the first player to record double-doubles in all six tournament games. He finished the season with 31 double-doubles, but it was not enough. Carolina was trying to join 1985 Villanova as only the second 8 seed to win March Madness.

McCormack and Jalen Wilson led KU with 15 points each. Christian Braun scored 10 of his 12 in the second half and transfer Remy Walker had 11 of his 14 over the final 20 minutes, as the Jayhawks turned what looked like a lost cause into one of the sweetest wins ever.

Carolina had scored 16 straight points late in the first half to open a 40-25 advantage at the break, but top-seeded KU (34-6) went on a 31-10 run over the opening 10 minutes of the second to take a six-point lead and set up a fantastic finish.

It was an improbable run to the Final Four for the Tar Heels, as Carolina lost four games this season by more than 20 points. Many experts had them "on the bubble" and at risk of not even making the tournament. Then came a remarkable run that saw the Heels defeat Baylor, UCLA, Saint Peter's and Duke to reach their 12th national championship game.

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Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Feature News Editor. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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