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Kansas Comes Back in a Thriller to Beat North Carolina for the Championship

SportsKansas Comes Back in a Thriller to Beat North Carolina for the Championship

NEW ORLEANS — Kansas, ranked No. 1 in the country and rolling into the middle of March, had its national championship hopes dashed two years ago by an unbeatable foe — the pandemic, which wiped out the N.C.A.A. tournament.

The perpetually snakebit Jayhawks, who have a lengthy history of N.C.A.A. tournament disappointments, put those regrets behind them on Monday night, rallying from a 16-point deficit to turn back North Carolina, 72-69, before a crowd of about 70,000 at the Superdome.

David McCormack, their bullish senior center whose career has mirrored the up-and-down arc of the Jayhawks’ tournament fortunes, scored the go-ahead bucket by following his own miss and then — after Armando Bacot, playing on a gimpy right ankle, injured it on a drive to the basket — McCormack scored again in the post to put Kansas ahead by 72-69.

Kansas then had to survive a pair of 3-pointers by Caleb Love and Puff Johnson — and after a turnover gave North Carolina one last shot — another by Love, their clutch marksman, that did not come close.

When the buzzer sounded, the Jayhawks stormed the court with McCormack running over to shout at the Kansas radio broadcaster as confetti began to tumble down from the roof.

The victory was the first championship for the Jayhawks since 2008, when they scrambled past Memphis in overtime — sent there by Mario Chalmers’s late 3-pointer, a shot that lives among the school’s rich basketball lore. It also marks the fifth consecutive tournament in which a No. 1 seed has won the crown.

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