After leading by 15 in the first half, the North Carolina men's basketball team was outscored by Kansas 47-29 in the second half in a 72-69 loss in the national championship.
The Jayhawks were dialed in to start the game, blitzing out to a 7-0 start. UNC got on the board two minutes in, when graduate forward Brady Manek drilled his first triple to stop the run. Kansas’ David McCormack added a left-handed hook to extend the lead to 9-3 before the first media timeout.
After Kansas built momentum, UNC quickly responded. Over the next several minutes, the Tar Heels went on a 9-3 run to build a 12-11 lead. However, the Jayhawks countered with baskets on the next few possessions and held a 15-12 advantage with 10:45 left in the half.
A banked-in three from Kansas’ Remy Martin put the Jayhawks up four, but UNC responded with an 8-0 run led by a flurry of jumpers by sophomore guard RJ Davis. At the under-eight timeout, the Tar Heels were up 22-18.
After Kansas tied the game at 22, the Jayhawks tried to get the ball inside to McCormack but turned the ball over twice. On the other end, Manek nailed two straight threes to put the Tar Heels up six before Kansas called timeout. UNC continued to push the pace offensively and added four more points to go up 32-22 with 3:46 to go.
The Jayhawks maintained their focus on getting the ball inside, yet stout defense from the Tar Heels held them scoreless. UNC scored six more points to conclude its 16-0 run while keeping Kansas off the board for almost four minutes of play. Following a series of defensive stops, the Tar Heels headed into the break with a 40-25 lead.
Kansas ran out of the break with six quick points before a three by sophomore guard Caleb Love stopped the run. The Jayhawks continued to trim away at the deficit, and an and-one finish from Jalen Wilson made the score 45-37 just over four minutes in.
Senior wing Leaky Black picked up his fourth foul with 13:52 to play, which helped Kansas chip away even more. Following a series of turnovers, the Jayhawks ran the break to cut UNC’s lead to 46-45 before head coach Hubert Davis called timeout. Love made a layup high off the glass after the break before Kansas’ Christian Braun made one of his own to make it 48-47.
Over the next several minutes, the Jayhawks regained the lead. A Martin triple and and-one finish by Wilson put them up 56-50, but Davis scored twice to close the gap. Down 57-54, sophomore forward Puff Johnson made a corner three and drew a charge on defense, and the game was tied at 57 with 7:48 to go.
Out of the break, another Martin triple put the Jayhawks ahead. Johnson made another finish inside, but Kansas responded with a three from Wilson. Then, Johnson attacked the rim for an acrobatic layup to help the Tar Heels strike back. Martin made a left-handed layup, and Kansas was up 65-61 at the last media timeout.
Four free throws tied the game, but Martin hit a triple from the wing to push the Jayhawks ahead. But on the next two possessions, Love made a layup and Manek made a putback tip-in to give the Tar Heels their first lead since midway through the half. Kansas responded on the other end, and after Bacot reinjured his ankle, the Jayhawks held a 70-69 lead with under 40 seconds to play.
With Bacot out, McCormack scored another hook shot to put his team up three. Love missed a three on the other end, and after a series of offensive rebounds, Manek threw the ball out of bounds with just over four seconds left to give Kansas possession. But on the ensuing inbound pass, Kansas' Dajuan Harris stepped on the sideline to give the Tar Heels one last chance.
After inbounding the ball to Love, he put up a double-pump three but airballed as time expired to give Kansas the 72-69 national championship win.
Who stood out?
Playing with an injured ankle, Bacot was the Tar Heels’ anchor on the inside. He notched a double-double in the first half alone and ended the night with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
With Black in foul trouble, Johnson erupted for 11 points — including nine in the second half — in just 17 minutes.
The Jayhawks were led by Wilson and McCormack, who each finished with 15 points.
When was it decided?
After leading by 15 at halftime, UNC collapsed early in the second half and the Jayhawks built a six-point lead with just over 10 to go. Both teams battled for the next seven minutes and with 3:06 to play, the game was tied at 65.
Up one with under a minute to play, McCormack's shot gave Kansas a three-point lead. The Tar Heels had one last chance, but Love's miss sealed the team's fate.
Why does it matter?
Following a regular season of teetering on and off the NCAA Tournament bubble, North Carolina's improbable championship run fell short in the final leg.
When do they play next?
The game marks the end of the 2021-22 college basketball season.
@dthsports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.