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North Carolina coach Roy Williams wept. Marcus Paige cried so hard that his teeth chattered. And the rest of the the team were simply shattered by the preposterous last-second sequence that gave Villanova the championship and left UNC heading home empty-handed.
Kris Jenkins nailed the game-winner for Villanova with barely any time left, in one of the most exciting finishes in an NCAA title game in the tournemant’s history. UNC’s players, who had fought back from a 10-point deficit to level the game when Paige hit a brilliant three with four seconds left, were stunned.
Williams said he felt powerless – a feeling to which he’s not usually accustomed.
“I just didn’t go guard Kris,” Williams said of Jenkins, whose miraculous shot at the buzzer to give Villanova the 77-74 victory.
“It was helpless,” Williams said, rubbing his face. “It was not a good feeling.”
The pain was clear on Williams’ face, conveying just how desperately he wished he could say or do something to help his guys deal with the loss that broke a 10-game winning streak.
“I’m not very good because I can’t take away the hurt,” he said. “I’m not very good because I can’t change that. I told them I loved them. I told them I wish I could have helped them more. That I appreciated them from the bottom of my heart.”
He and the Tar Heels endured a flood of emotions in the final seconds of Monday night’s game. They thought overtime was a foregone conclusion after Paige tied it up at the end.
“We were 4.7 seconds away from winning the game because I told the team all we had to do was get to overtime and the game would be ours,” Paige said. “And I truly believe that, I think our whole team believes that.”
Instead it was Villanova who lifted the trophy. One of the most incredible climaxes to a basketball game anyone can remember.
“It’s hard because at some point tonight I have to take this jersey off and I never get to put it back on,” Paige said.