UNC Survives Thriller Ending with a 75-73 Win over Kentucky

Posted March 29, 2017

Gonzaga, the top seed in the West Region, spent much of the season ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll before a late-season loss - it's only loss - dropped the Bulldogs in the final weeks.

Just like millions of others yesterday, I watched the South Regional final of this year's March Madness college basketball tournament, between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Kentucky Wildcats. UNC fans had to know that head coach Roy Williams would not call timeout, just as his mentor Dean Smith wouldn't do, so the chaotic final moments allowed for no time to think. The Tar Heels will be making their record 20th trip, and most of the players on this year's roster were on hand last season to find out all about the agony of coming oh-so close to winning it all. Kentucky freshmen De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk hit three quick three-pointers, the last two by Monk. That allowed sophomore Luke Maye to drift out open to the left, where he drilled the game victor with 0.3 seconds on the clock for a 75-73 lead.

On the very next possession, Monk drove to the rim dropping the ball to big man Bam Adebayo but UNC forward Theo Pinson deflected the ball away. "I didn't want it to end like that". Williams said. "He (made) some big-time plays today, big-time plays two days ago". North Carolina beat Kentucky, 75-73, in a thrilling finish. Berry, hobbled throughout, played through ankle pain and finished with 11 points.

But the Wildcats' in-bounds pass sailed the length of the court and went out of bounds.

Kentucky (32-6) will miss out on the Final Four for the second straight year. In addition to seniors Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder, draft projections show that Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo would be first-round picks in the 2017 National Basketball Association draft. And because we're not in the same league, we knew that if we played them again that it would have to be in the NCAA Tournament, so you would hope it is as far down the line as you possibly could.

Justin Jackson finished with 19 points and also played tough defense on Monk, limiting him to 10 shots and 12 points.

Never before had the NCAA Tournament pitted powerhouse programs that have so dominated March. Kentucky now is 4-2 with Calipari in regional finals. While an unreal 3-pointer from Malik Monk tied the game, there were almost 10 seconds remaining for North Carolina to get a shot off, and they did. Maye's bucket booked North Carolina's ticket from Chapel Hill to Phoenix for the 2017 Final Four.

Officials didn't help the flow of this game calling fouls left and right, though Kentucky took the brunt with its star trio of freshmen all picking up two fouls each in the half.

But Monk made just two field goals in the first 39 minutes and 21 seconds of the game before hitting a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch.

The school of Frank McGuire, Kevin Joyce, Brian Winters, Mike Dunleavy and Alex English is going to the Final Four for the first time.

And with Gonzaga facing SC in the first semifinal, at least one of the newcomers will coach for a national championship on the final night of the season.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 26 points for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks (26-10) against the fourth-seeded Gators (27-9) in the all-Southeastern Conference matchup.

The experience of the Tar Heels is second to none here because the Ducks have not been in this spot in almost 80 years, and the other two schools in the other semifinal have never played in a Final Four before.