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NCAA Championship: Villanova 77 UNC 74

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As the game opened, both teams looked very much like they were in feeling out mode. UNC was tentative to challenge the various Wildcat defensive looks and Villanova continued to hit shots.  The Wildcat defense kept UNC was getting clean interior looks as Villanova built a 19-14 lead with 10:09 left. UNC reeled an 11-4 run with made threes from Joel Berry, Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson. Berry's three at the end of that run kicked off a personal string of 12 points for the sophomore point guard to push UNC out to a 34-30 lead. Following a Villanova basket, UNC got a floater from Nate Britt and Jackson's third three of the half to take a 39-32 lead.

It appeared UNC would extend the lead to nine at the end of the half after a Wildcat turnover and outlet to Jackson. However Jackson had the layup blocked by Josh Hart after clear body contact went uncalled. Phil Booth's jumper on the other end cut the lead to 39-34 at the break. Despite a tough Wildcat defense shutting down UNC's interior game and a foul disparity, the Tar Heels headed to the locker room up five thanks to 15 points from Berry and nine from Jackson.

The second half opened with Brice Johnson putting UNC up seven then things slowly went downhill. Villanova continue to shoot the ball well while UNC seemingly had a lid on the basket.  The lead eventually slipped away and when Villanova seized it the Wildcats built it to as much as double digits. The Tar Heels trailed 67-57 with a little over five minutes left and in serious need of some heroics to get back into the game.

Marcus Paige was that hero and for one last time Second Half Paige made an incredible appearance. With UNC trailing 70-64 and 1:52 left in the game, Paige hit a three in the corner to cut the Wildcat lead to just three. After forcing a turnover out of the trap, Johnson's shot in the post cut the lead to one. Villanova made a pair of free throws to run the lead back to three. On the next possession Paige drove, missed a layup but somehow wrestle the rebound away before flipping it up to cut the lead to one.

UNC let nine seconds elapse before fouling and after two more Wildcat free throws, Paige made the most improbable shot of his Tar Heel career, a double pump three pointer that tied the game at 74-74 with 4.7 seconds left. All UNC needed to do was defend one play and get to overtime where perhaps Paige could get a storybook ending.

It wasn't meant to be. Nova executed a perfect play getting the ball to Kris Jenkins who drilled a three as time expired to give Villanova the 2016 NCAA Championship.

In his final game as  a Tar Heel, Marcus Paige scored 21 points and shot 4-7 from three to go with six assists and five rebounds. Joel Berry went for 20 points and four assists. Brice Johnson had 14 points and eight rebounds while Justin Jackson scored nine and was not a factor offensively in the second half.

UNC ends the season 33-7 overall.