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Big East Type Toughness and Resilience Leads Villanova to NCAA Championship

Kris Jenkins (Photo by John Jones - Double G Media)

Kris Jenkins (Photo by John Jones – Double G Media)

 

31 years ago, Villanova fans won the “upset of the century” in their victory over Georgetown to be named NCAA Champions.  It’s taken 31 years for Villanova to return and what a journey it has been.  Fans yearned for ‘Nova to win the Championship as a favorite and not as a “Cinderella” story as they were classified with their 1985 Championship win.

Villanova is built of mostly older players, juniors and seniors.  They are home to only one McDonald’s All American, Jalen Brunson, a freshman.  Villanova, a number two seed, was destined to be a number one seed until they lost their Conference Final Game.  According to most, Villanova should not even be in the Championship game.  This tournament proved Villanova’s worth and just how talented they are.

As the tournament dwindled down to the final four, Villanova dominated Oklahoma by 44 points, the largest margin of victory out of all the other match ups in the semifinals.  ‘Nova’s offense is one of the strongest, consistently scoring on the perimeter.  During the final four, Villanova shot 71.4 percent from the field which happened to be the second-best shooting performance of any team in Final Four history.  Needless to say, heading into this Championship game left NovaNation followers with immense optimism at how well Villanova would perform on Monday night.

At the start of the Championship game, Villanova looked strong, keeping up with North Carolina.  It was apparent early on that the script seemed to switch with these two teams.  Villanova is known for how consistent they can hit three pointers.  However, in this game, North Carolina hit seven out of nine three pointers by halftime and Villanova struggled.  In the same light, North Carolina is known for their points made in the paint and here, Villanova was dominating North Carolina in the paint. Come halftime, North Carolina held a five point lead, 39-34.

The teams took to the court for the second half and final twenty minutes of the NCAA Championship.  Within minutes of the start of the second half, you could hear the “Let’s Go ‘Nova” chant.  ‘Nova’s chance at winning the Championship was to keep North Carolina off the glass and to “cool” it down and add some patience with their shooting.

Villanova took their time and was patient in the box.  The lead slowly dwindled down and by the first break of the second half, North Carolina led by only three points, until Mikal Bridges slam dunked to tie to the game.  Villanova picked up their shooting and in return, North Carolina was making fouls left and right which allowed Villanova to take the lead.

North Carolina initiated a full court press, but Villanova was patient and careful not to turn the ball over.  If viewers weren’t biting their nails enough as the seconds timed down, they were as North Carolina closed the gap.  With 35.7 seconds left, Villanova drew the foul and to the line they went for additional two points on the board.  As quickly as those two points went up by Villanova, North Carolina returned with another basket and pushed another full court press.  Villanova had thirty seconds to make a shot and the time remaining was under thirty.  North Carolina had no choice, but to foul Villanova to prevent Villanova from holding the ball and allowing the time to expire for the win.

With 4.7 seconds left, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige scored from the three point line to tie the game.  Villanova pushed up court as fast as they could with the final pass to Kris Jenkins.  Jenkins, the man who never sees a three he doesn’t like, took a shot from deep and as the final buzzer went off, in went the ball and Villanova was the new NCAA Champions with a final score of 77 to 74.

As a fan of Philadelphia sports both professional and collegiate, I have never watched such an intense, close game to the end of the wire.  I think I can speak on behalf of the fans of Villanova when I say how proud we are of how well the team played and how proud they have made the city of Philadelphia.  Villanova proved to be resilient and determined with an outstanding defense especially in the second half.  To the new NCAA Champions, Villanova:  You boys earned it!

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