The Kansas Jayhawks looked like they were on their way to getting blown out in the national championship game of the 2022 men’s NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks trailed UNC by 16 points in the first half and went into the halftime break trailing 40-25. Bill Self’s team would have to stake the biggest comeback in national title game history to win it all.
Somehow, Kansas did it. The Jayhawks outlasted North Carolina, 72-69, to win a thrilling game that came down to the final shot. Self has his second national championship at KU, and just like his first title 2008, the closing moments of the game were absolutely wild.
Kansas blitzed UNC out of halftime and took its first lead of the second half with about 12 minutes remaining. The Tar Heels refused to go away, and the game was tied 65-65 as the clock ticked under three minutes in regulation.
North Carolina inbounded the ball under their own basket down by one with under a minute left. Star center Armando Bacot caught the ball and slipped driving to the basket. Kansas picked up the ball as Bacot laid on the ground in pain. The Jayhawks had a clear four-on-five advantage, but instead of attacking UNC, they let the refs take a timeout. Watch the play here:
Armando Bacot goes down.— BasketballBuzz.ca (@basketballbuzz) April 5, 2022
15p/15r#UNCvsKansas #UNCvsKU #KansasvsUNC #KansasJayhawks #CollegeBasketball #RockChalk #CarolinaFamily #NationalChampionship #MFinalFour pic.twitter.com/oxAqYvCysG
That is one of the great examples of sportsmanship you will ever see. Yes, Kansas was running out the clock for a few extra seconds, but the video shows Kansas coaches weren’t thrilled with the possession. With the national title on the line in a one-point game, Jalen Wilson had a wide open shot from three as Bacot hobbled down the floor on the other end. Instead of shooting or finding an open man as the defense scrambled, KU called timeout.
On the next possession, David McCormack hit a hook shot to put Kansas up three with 22 seconds left.
Before McCormack’s shot, viewers around the country couldn’t believe Kansas didn’t take advantage of UNC’s injury.
Did Kansas really just slow it up to help Bacot? Great sportsmanship or terrible strategy? Thoughts?— Jordan Brenner (@JordanBrenner) April 5, 2022
Kansas just lived out some bizarre version of an NCAA PSA commercial about sportsmanship— Pablo Torre (@PabloTorre) April 5, 2022
Pretty incredible sportsmanship by Jalen Wilson— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) April 5, 2022
Was that sportsmanship or did they just blow that?— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) April 5, 2022
Well, Kansas showed sportsmanship while Bacot was down, and then immediately attacked the mismatch after he was subbed out. All of the credit *and* all of the advantage.— NoTechBen (@NoTechBen) April 5, 2022
The wasn’t the last wild play of the game. On the ensuing Carolina possession, the Tar Heels missed two three-pointers and got three offensive rebounds before turning it over. Kansas then inbounded the ball up three with six seconds left, only to see point guard Dajaun Harris (who was excellent in the second half) step out of bounds.
Carolina had one final shot, but Caleb Love’s three was off the mark.
If Kansas lost the game, their decision to take a timeout while Bacot was injured was going to be discussed forever. Instead of hustling for a quick shot in a four-on-five situation, they pulled the ball out and allowed for a timeout. Carolina fans still won’t be happy about a slippery floor being the reason Bacot went down, but at least Kansas didn’t take advantage of it when they had the chance.
Sportsmanship won out on college basketball’s biggest stage. What a scene.