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Richland Student Media

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Richland Chronicle 5/07/24
Richland Chronicle 5/07/24

ONLY ONLINE: Comeback Kansas captures fourth national title

Staff Writer David Acosta

The NCAA Men’s March Madness tournament bracket had 62 teams down with two left standing.  Those two were eighth  seed North Carolina Tarheels vs. top seed Kansas Jayhawks squaring off for the national championship April 4 at The Superdome in New Orleans.

Head coaches were Tarheels first-year coach Hubert Davis and  Bill Self, coaching the Jayhawks in his 19th season.  The Tarheels were seeking their seventh championship with their last accomplishment in 2017.  The Jayhawks were attempting their fourth national title since 2008.

Fans, cheerleaders and bands from both universities as well as fans watching from their campus arenas were cheering for their team.  Kansas alumni Danny Manning and Paul Pierce and former North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who preceded Davis, were in attendance. 

 Kansas got off to a fast start in the first half with a 9-0 and 11-3 lead before going ice cold the rest of the half.  North Carolina took advantage led by Brady Manek who had three 3-pointers, the only 3-pointers that Carolina connected throughout the entire half.

Manek, an Oklahoma transfer, finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.  The Tarheels then led 32-22 while grabbing eight offensive rebounds showing their physicality and mental toughness while making Kansas look lethargic.  Kansas was out rebounded 18-2 and North Carolina took a 15-point lead into the locker room up 40-25.  While leading at halftime this season, North Carolina was 21-0. 

During intermission, basketball analyst Charles Barkley was apathetic about how poorly Kansas played in the first half.  He said “Kansas is playing awful.  Kansas guards have to win this game.”  He mentioned names Christian Braun and David McCormack several times and what they need to do in order to become victorious.

It turns out the Kansas roundballers may have been  listening to Barkley as they staged a miraculous comeback.  Kansas quickened the pace clawing back trailing by four 45-41.  Kansas got to the free throw line a bit more.  However Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji struggled at the line connecting on two points.  That became a non-factor as Kansas guard Christian Braun started sprinting up and down the court with a couple of layups as Kansas took a one-point lead at 46-45.  Braun matched his night with 12 points and 12 rebounds, all in the paint. As Kansas expanded to 56-50, Carolina kept it close.

Both teams were exhausted, especially when Carolina guard Puff Johnson collapsed hitting his chest and vomiting on the floor.  Johnson walked off on his own power to the Carolina bench.  Kansas forward David McCormack contributed at the final minute with a couple key jumpers with Kansas up 72-69.  McCormack finished strong with 15 points and 10 rebounds.  Up by three with 4.6 seconds left,  Kansas’ Dujuan Harris made a critical error by stepping out of bounds, allowing Carolina one final attempt to tie the game and send it into overtime.  Carolina’s Caleb Love missed the shot and that’s all she wrote.  Kansas prevailed 72-69 by outscoring Carolina 47-29 in the second half.

Following the loss, Carolina coach  Davis had nothing but praise for his team and offered his admiration to Kansas as he told reporter Andy Katz for  NCAA.com, “I’m supposed to feel disappointed, but I’m so proud of them.  They gave this program, this university everything they had.  Congratulations to coach Bill Self.  They were more deserving tonight.”

At halftime Kansas coach  Self gave a motivational speech to his team as reported  by bleacherreport.com:   “I did tell them before the half was over, I said, ‘Which would be harder, being down nine with two minutes left [the deficit Kansas faced against Memphis before winning the 2008 championship] or being down 15 with 20?’ And they all said being down nine with two minutes left. So we can do this.”

That pep talk by Self paid off for the Jayhawks. Kansas captured its fourth national championship.They stood tall in jubilation and Agbaji was voted most outstanding player.North Carolina suffered its first defeat while leading at halftime all season.This marks the first time in championship tournament history that a team staged a ferocious comeback to win after trailing by 15 at halftime.

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