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Toughness Title: Stellar second half leads Kansas past North Carolina 72-69 for program's sixth national championship

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) hoists the NCAA National Championship trophy as the Jayhawks celebrate their 72-69 win over North Carolina.

NEW ORLEANS — Thirty-four years to the day after winning the 1988 title, and 14 years after hanging another banner in 2008, the Kansas men’s basketball team added to its haul of championships on Monday night with a thrilling 72-69 victory over North Carolina at Caesars Superdome.

In fitting fashion, this one, like so many other KU wins this season, came down to the Jayhawks refusing to quit and fighting to the end.

The win — — KU's sixth national title all-time — featured the Jayhawks coming back from 15 down at halftime with a sensational second half and capped off a 34-6 season that instantly vaulted these Jayhawks into future conversations about the greatest teams and greatest runs ever to come through KU.

It was the largest second-half comeback in NCAA title game history. It made Kansas coach Bill Self the first KU coach to win multiple national titles. And it came with Self paying homage to his first one in the process.

With the north net in his pocket and headed for an Allen Fieldhouse trophy case near you, Self walked from one end of the floor to the other to watch his players cut down the net on the south end. As he did, he was asked how his two titles compared, with the reality of the second one still freshly sinking in.

“They’re both unbelievable,” Self said. “I mean, we came from nine down in two minutes in the first one (to beat Memphis in 2008) and we came from 15 down in 20 minutes in this one. I don’t love getting behind like that, but this was special. I mean, this is special.”

It also was one that Self had to sweat out to the very end.

Behind intense defense, unrelenting tempo and stellar plays from tournament MVP Ochai Agbaji (12 points in 37 minutes), Jalen Wilson (15 points in 34 minutes), Remy Martin (14 points in 21 minutes, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range) and David McCormack, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds — "Everyone played good," Self said afterwards — the Jayhawks erased UNC’s 15-point halftime lead completely by the 10:53 mark of the second half.

Kansas then went up by as many as six points before holding on in back-and-forth fashion at the end.

As the final seconds ticked down and KU built a three-point on back-to-back buckets by McCormack that erased a one-point deficit with 1:42 to play, the Jayhawks led by three with 4.6 seconds to play and had possession.

“When we had to have a basket, we went to big Dave,” Self said during the on-court celebration.

Later, Self noted that he handed one of the nets to McCormack, who helped carry Kansas and in New Orleans and landed on the all-tournament team with Agbaji.

With the championship so close they could taste it, the buzz building in the bleachers and the Superdome ready to explode, Dajuan Harris Jr. stepped out of bounds on the Jayhawks’ final inbounds pass to give the ball back to UNC (29-10), down by three with 4.3 seconds to play.

Agbaji said “kind of that eerie feeling” swept over the team, but the Jayhawks dug in, elected not to foul and watched as Carolina’s attempt to tie it misfired, making these Jayhawks the national champions and pushing the party into high gear.

As the final horn sounded after a last-second attempt to tie the game by UNC’s Caleb Love misfired, the Kansas bench exploded onto the Superdome floor and crimson and blue confetti filled the arena.

Braun, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes while sparking the second-half comeback with ferocious play in transition and in the post, raced to the sideline to yell toward anyone who would listen, “I told you. I told you. We’re here.”

There might’ve been a few expletives mixed in there, but no one seemed to care.

A few minutes later, after the trophy stage was set up and the Jayhawks started to make their climb to the top of the college basketball world, Dajuan Harris Jr., walked toward his family and, while wearing his brand new, black national champions hat, popped his jersey and said three times, “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.”

Earlier, with the sideline starting to feel it, freshman guard Bobby Pettiford flashed a sly smile to the crowd and starting wagging his fingers. The gesture was an indication of what was to come, and, yes, Pettiford and his teammates soon will be getting a national championship ring.

Before those arrive, there will be a parade in Lawrence, a celebration that lasts a lifetime and a completely new chapter written into the KU history books.

Oh, and there’s a new banner coming, too. It will have the words “National Champions” on it, and the year 2022.

It took less than two minutes for one team to show the other that it wanted this one more. At least early on.

That came after a missed 3-pointer by Carolina that wound up bouncing on the ground near the 3-point line. Out of nowhere, and between two Tar Heels, McCormack dove to the floor and wrestled the ball away to start a fastbreak for Kansas.

Jalen Wilson’s two free throws that followed pushed the Jayhawks out to a 7-0 lead for the second consecutive game in New Orleans.

The KU surge subsided as quickly as it came as UNC big man Armando Bacot started to control things on both ends of the floor.

On defense, he made it difficult for McCormack to score over him, forcing bad misses on fadeaways from the rim. On offense, he started to get on the offensive glass, with the most notable moment coming on an and-one put-back that gave the Tar Heels their first lead (12-11) with 13:30 to play in the first half.

From there, with UNC settling in, the two teams traded baskets and were tied at 22 with 6:04 to play in the half.

That’s when disaster struck. UNC hit Kansas with a 16-0 run that spanned 3:52 and the Jayhawks started to unravel on offense.

Missed layups, forced 3-pointers and one-and-done possessions allowed UNC to slowly and methodically build its lead to 38-22 late in the first half.

A lot of the damage came at the free throw line and on second-chance points. UNC went 13-of-16 at the line in the first half and outscored Kansas 18-2 in second chance opportunities.

As the Jayhawks walked off the court, gassed and reeling, the North Carolina players celebrated and flashed a little swagger, feeling themselves after the 40-18 run that followed KU’s strong start.

It turned out to be one of the last times the Tar Heels had that look and moxie the rest of the night.

“We got after them pretty good there in the second half,” Self said. “It was great to win, regardless, but to win it with toughness was great. We were so mentally tough.”

And no one will ever forget it. Just ask the players from the 1952, 1988 and 2008 national championship teams.

Comments

Mallory Briggans

Im happiest for Mitch

4 months ago

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David Robinett

Big Dave delivered.

I guess coach knew what he was doing sticking with him early in the year when he was struggling.

4 months ago

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Tony Bandle

Did I miss anything tonight? :}

4 months ago

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Mallory Briggans

David ........Self didnt have any choice ..........Tony you missed a great game ....we were down late but Mario Chalmers hit a 3 to send it into overtime . It looked like it as over but we fought back and pulled it out .

4 months ago

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Daniel Kennamore

Of course they couldn't make it easy for us fans.

Pretty sure that 'biggest comeback' record is going to stick for decades.

So happy and proud for those guys.

And just for some special posters, KU +4 over Kentucky in all time wins.

4 months ago

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Bryce Landon

We referred to the 1988 team as "Danny and the Miracles".

We referred to the 2008 team as "Mario's Miracle".

We can refer to the 2022 team as "Comeback Kansas"!

What a truly incredible second half for the Jayhawks! To come back from down 16 to win the title required remarkable effort and toughness and grit, and the Jayhawks showed all of that tonight! Many times during the season I questioned their toughness and grit; but tonight, they left no doubt in my mind how tough and gritty they were.

In my opinion, this KU team is not the best championship team - that distinction belongs to the 2007-08 team that posted a 37-3 record. But this is the best championship we've won, because it came against another program with a championship history. Our past three title game victims - St. John's, 1952; Oklahoma, 1988; and Memphis, 2008 - don't have any national championships, but North Carolina has six. So in my mind, this is our greatest championship.

When KU lost to USC last year and Bill Self got a lifetime contract with KU, I was certain we wouldn't sniff another national title until the 2040s. That take aged very, very badly. And I couldn't be happier that my take was so wrong! Bill Self has proven that he is the best coach Kansas could possibly have, and I was a fool to want to replace him with someone else.

2022 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!

4 months ago

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Reginald Flenory

ROCKCHALK ALL THE WAY FROM LOS ANGELES !!!!

4 months ago

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Tony Bandle

Random Thoughts:

1] Well, Bryce, I guess we can tolerate Bill for one more year. :}.

2] OK...Right hand up and swearing on a bible, who actually thought we would win going into half time? Honestly, I was hoping for a single digit loss to save face.

3] Ochai was the Final Four MVP but Remi was the MVP of the second half.

4] I'll be darned but Barkley actually got a prediction right for once.

5] By the end of the game, the Tar Heels looked like a M.A.S.H. unit with a bad ankle, an upset stomach and maybe a minor concussion!!

6] Watching the replay of NC's last shot, KU had Brady covered with Ochai on him as he fell to the floor.

7] My last thought was "Oh, Christian, don't foul him".

4 months ago

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Marc Frey

I thought we had a chance at halftime..my son graduated from Baylor and reminded me of their OT loss. I hope Wison stays. He needs another year to up his numbers, as Agbaji. Mac...maybe Europe league.

4 months ago

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Bill Corrigan

The Jayhawks just refused to be denied!

It's 2008 all over again in Lawrence with HCBS' team winning a second NCAA national basketball championship.

4 months ago

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Brian Skelly

For as thrilled as we're all are right now, Im specifically happy for Bill Self. Multiple Championships are hard as hell to come by, and the naysayers just need to go away. Im thrilled for him as well as the kids and the fans.

This team had as enjoyable personality as any KU team in recent memory, and I'd feel that way even if we came up short tonight.

The Comeback Kids are forever cemented in KUs rich history!!!

4 months ago

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Brad Watson

Congratulations to everyone involved with the program on winning the National Championship!!!!! Everyone played a unique role in the success of this team....players...coaches...supporting cast ...all involved.... Fantastic run to the title!!!!!....WELL DONE!!!!.

4 months ago

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Dirk Medema

They’ve flipped the switch at halftime before.
Some people think that Coach rips into them at halftime, but didn’t he say he thought they were playing fairly well. Missed layups were killers.
The FTs were reminding me of Syracuse.
Remy was kinda crazy in the first half but the 3-3’s were killers in the second.

4 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Jalen needs to develop a consistent 3 and CB needs to be willing to take them before they leave.

Harris’s D was huge through the game.

It’s their team next year with all sorts of newbies around them - and old man Cam.

4 months ago

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Garry Wright

I really appreciate the fairmindedness of our team. We spot them 15 points at the half to give them a better chance. And then with 4.3 seconds to go Harris steps out of bounds so they can have a possible chance to tie it. I hope UNC appreciates how we tried to even the odds with them. 😁

4 months ago

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Lance Hobson

Rock Chalk from Boise! Ugly win but I’ll take it!

4 months ago

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Dale Rogers

I'm happy for Adams, too. A true freshman and he played in the National Championship game.

4 months ago

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Lee Short

Huge congrats to the team and to Bill Self and the coaching stuff. So glad to get this particular monkey (not having 2 national titles) off Coach's back.

Martin, again, had by far the most points per minute. HIghest efficiency (4-6) of any player on the court. Huge spark. Played great defense. Only 1 turnover in 21 minutes vs. Harris 4 in 27 minutes. Played great defense. Just think of how much we would have won if we had how the average minutes of the starters.

I know Charles Barkley talked about how Braun should have been the MVP, but all the announcers heaped huge amounts of praise on Remy. I agreed at the time with the comments made about Remy. In fact, from my perspective, he should be considered the MOP over the whole 6 games if they were to name a title spanning the 6 tourney games.

Amazing performance by our team tonight, but Remy, overall, stood out for the tournament in spite of having so many fewer minutes on the court that the average starter.

Got to wish all our seniors well. They really blessed us fans. RCJH.

4 months ago

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Ryan Mullen

Congrats to the Kansas City Jayhawks!

4 months ago

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Art Jefferson

That was Fun!
Hey, let's do it again next year!
Well....... First, let's enjoy this one and let it sink in.
Then, LET'S DO IT AGAIN NEXT YEAR!

4 months ago

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Bj Cassady

Lightfoot, JCL and Martin I am especially happy for them. Lightfoot 6 years at KU, JCL 7 years in college, Martin decides to finish at KU and they all get a National Championship. I am happy for the whole team but for these 3 especially.

4 months ago

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Steve Zimmerman

I didn't expect this team would go this far, but that was with uncertainty, obscurity around Martin's availability to play in the tourney. Boy, aren't we glad coach BS did his way to make adjustment with Martin & the starters - perfect timing. I underestimated coach's offense plays - but with Remy we were unbeatable. What an unbelievable season - it's so surreal, never imagined this team made it. At least for me. But wow, just wow. DMac all of a sudden looked like himself again (as in last season), CB came fired up - 2nd half specialist, Remy never disappoints of course, Ochai MOP, JWil showed why KU is a great bball school by waiting for Bacot to walk back to defense! Great D! We outgunned, outran, outhustled, outplayed UNC.

Congrats to KU MBB & coaching staff for an amazing historic NCAA champ performance!
Same goes to UNC - congrats to 1st year class-act coach Davis, deserves respect!

ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!!

4 months ago

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Max Ledom

This is what it’s all about. I just can’t believe it. We did it.

4 months ago

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Benjamin Shear

Obiter Dictum:

-The Comeback Kids win the title! Rock Chalk from NYC!

-I guess maybe we shouldn't fire Coach Self?

-Kansas was like an engine with the timing belt not calibrated. The engine was fine and powerful, it just was not working correctly. That obviously changed in the second half.

-What's up with the NCAA guy saying "Kansas City Jayhawks?"

-What's up with Charles B not knowing how to pronounce Braun?

-Give credit to these players, they really did believe they could win, even at half time.

-Give credit to HCBS for making adjustments at the half that actually worked, like posting Braun, and pulling DMac out of the lane for Agbaji could drive without running into the wall named Bacot.

-Let's also give credit to a very special UNC team. Those guys did something amazing and they should be proud of the season they had. Much respect.

-KU won this game as a team. So many important shots, steal, and passes. Yes, Agbaji is a star, but look at the box score. This was an balanced of a team win as we have had. 5 players between 12-14 points.

-It's hard not to like this team, such a great group. Congrats on the championship!

4 months ago

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Brett McCabe

The most unbelievable stat of the night, and my wife pointed it out, we were out rebounded 55-35. Has any team ever won a championship game going minus-20 in rebounds? Has a Bill Self team ever been out rebounded by 20?

Truly amazing to overcome that deficit and win the game. What an epic comeback. Still hard to believe even after a night’s sleep!

4 months ago

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Bill Corrigan

Things certainly looked bleak for KU at halftime last night to the probable delight of the NCAA, but I'd wager that the final result was the last thing the NC$$ wanted to happen.

4 months ago

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Justin Kruse

Congratulations, boys and coaches! Feels so good and so proud of you!

4 months ago

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Floyd Thomas, Jr.

Bluest of Blue, Rock Chalk KU! Congratulations to these remarkable student athletes, their coaches and trainers, and all others who have contributed to the program and this National Championship!

4 months ago

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Brian Leiker

I absolutely loved it when CB was taking them into the paint to post up. That was a brilliant move by Self.

4 months ago

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Mallory Briggans

And just like that the seasons over ! National Champions ....again . Vegas never sleeps and the odds ere released this morning Kansas is a favorite to repeat ,so they go into next year with that mountain of pressure ......but Im sure Self will have them ready for the challenge.

Big 12 Regular season champs

Big 12 Tournament champs

Midwest Regional champs

NCAA basketball National champs

And for Wilson how his season began and how it ended was amazing

4 months ago

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Chad Smith

I've been trying to come up with the words all last night and this morning. Just super happy, as a lifelong fan, this is the day you cherish the most. Just have to embrace this moment as a fan, because it doesn't come around all that often. We all know how hard it is to win a national championship. I ask myself if our expectations are ridiculous and perhaps they are. But now Bill Self has cemented himself as perhaps the greatest KU coach in the long rich history of the program. He gets one more and he goes from legendary to iconic. Being the head coach at KU is an honor and privilege and Self clearly understands that and understands what basketball means to us, as fans.

These kids loaded the wagon and left it all out there. Super happy for them and now they are forever ingrained in our memories. What a fun season and fun team to go along the journey with.
McCormack showed me a lot during the tournament run. He's been questioned and rightfully critcized at every turn. But he used it as fuel and showed us all what he is capable of and the passion and heart he has.

2022 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS. I LOVE the sound of that.

ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!!!!!

4 months ago

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Rodney Crain

GREAT win. I am so proud of these guys.

The comments are still a little weird, a like of a comment takes you out of the article.

I can't reply to anyone, which for most on here is a very good thing. So......

4 months ago

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Robert Brock

Hats off to David McCormack. He was the key to this victory. What a stud!

4 months ago

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Dirk Medema

A very good thing.

Loved watching the post game interviews. I can see why unc players like Coach Davis. Maybe my second favorite coach.

Loved listening to the our players. David and Och were clearly leaders. Both immediately pointed to Dajuan as the difference in the second half. Some will look at 5 in double figures but the players know what really happened.

Loved that CB stepped up to admit he was questioning their chances going into half time but still bought in with everyone else to David’s leadership. Nice subtle reminder of history from Coach as well.

Loved that Och quickly recognized David as MVP. Och is obviously an AA and rightfully gets the most D attention. Self appropriately revised the commentary to recognize all 7 players up there as being so crucial. Similar to recognizing KJ for his pivotal minute in the E8.

It will be tough to pass on to future teams just how tough and intense this team played. It is the difference.

Glad I didn’t hear the KC comment from Emmert. Glad it was appropriately acknowledged immediately. One post game question was regarding if it was a purposeful dig at KU. (This NC has to be really annoying for him.) The response was just that it more likely just begins to illustrates how much he doesn’t know.

4 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Kansas Komeback

4 months ago

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Micky Baker

Everyone made key contributions including Lightfoot spelling David, Remy's hustle play resulting in knocking the ball away from the opponent about to score, Harris's defense, David's diving to the floor to get a possession, CB's drives to the bucket during the comeback, Remy's big 3 from the right side, Ochai's big block, David's big block, and quite a few other things that aren't in the box score. Let's also not forget about Bill Self's adjustment at halftime putting David up at the key and opening up driving lanes for the guards. I thought it was possible to make the comeback, but I did not believe it was likely until I saw it with my own eyes on the biggest stage! There were a lot of tough games the men played and it paid off big. They believed in themselves and each other and got it done. I am proud of them and it will be something that these men deserve to have on their Resume going into the future, including possible NBA opportunities for some of them and job opportunities in whatever fields of study that they are going to get a degree in. These are the kind of guys I would want on my team, guys with character and who give encouragement to those around them and who care about each other so much. I refer to them as men, because they proved to the world that they are men and men that you want to have on your team.

4 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Anyone catch NCAA's Mark Emmert when he presented the trophy, calling us the Kansas City Jayhawks, before catching his mistake?

My Hope is that any NCAA penalty is for the Kansas City Jayhawk's.

4 months ago

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Dale Rogers

Wow, this article mentions stellar defense and names four starters, leaving out Harris. He is mentioned only for stepping out of bounds. Every article I have read today is the same, Harris mentioned only for stepping out of bounds. I felt his contribution in this game on the defensive end was worthy of far more mentions than that.

4 months ago

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