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Final Four: Kansas posts largest comeback in national championship game history to beat North Carolina

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Kansas pulled off the biggest comeback in men’s national championship game history to beat North Carolina, 72-69, and win the 2022 NCAA tournament.

The Jayhawks were down by 15 at halftime and trailed at 16 at one point in the first half. The 16-point deficit breaks a record held by Loyola Chicago after the Ramblers came back from a 15-point deficit to win the national title. And until Monday night, the biggest halftime deficit ever turned around in a national title game was 10 when Kentucky came back to beat Utah.

David McCormack's basket with 22 seconds left put the Jayhawks up by three after North Carolina's Armando Bacot turned his right ankle and had to limp off the court with less than a minute left. Bacot injured that ankle Saturday against Duke.

The Tar Heels couldn't get a good look on the possession after McCormack's basket before the ball went out of bounds with under five seconds to go. But Kansas' DaJuan Harris accidentally stepped out of bounds while receiving the ensuing inbound pass and gave North Carolina another shot to send the game to overtime with 4.3 seconds to go.

That shot to tie didn't hit the rim. Caleb Love was smothered on the inbounds pass while 3-point threat Brady Manek stumbled as the inbounds play unfolded. Love was forced to shoot an off-balance guarded three that didn't hit anything.

Kansas took the lead less than 10 minutes into second half

Kansas didn't take long to erase North Carolina's lead in the second half. The Jayhawks quickly got the deficit down to single digits within the first 2:30 of the half and had the game tied before the 10-minute mark as Christian Braun rebounded from a poor first half to score 10 points in the middle of the comeback.

A Remy Martin three put Kansas up 53-50 with 10:20 to go and then Jalen Wilson got an and-one to extend the lead to six just 12 seconds later.

North Carolina didn’t go away. The Tar Heels tied the game at 57-57 before a three by Martin put Kansas back in front. UNC got the game tied at 65-65 with less than four minutes to go before Martin hit another go-ahead three.

UNC then took a one-point lead with less than two minutes to go before McCormack put Kansas up for good.

[Get your Kansas Jayhawks national championship gear right here]

The title is Kansas' second under coach Bill Self. The first came in 2008 in a game that also goes down in March Madness lore thanks to Mario Chalmers' three with two seconds left to send Kansas into overtime with Memphis.

That title established Self as one of the elite coaches in college basketball and he's now tied with Iona's Rick Pitino and Villanova's Jay Wright for the most national championships among active coaches as he and Kansas are in the midst of a drawn-out battle with the NCAA over alleged pay-for-play violations as part of the FBI's investigation into college basketball.

Perhaps that turmoil between Kansas and the NCAA helped lead NCAA president Mark Emmert to accidentally say the "Kansas City Jayhawks" had won the national title before Kansas received the trophy.

Self is now the only Kansas coach to win more than one national title in his time at the school and KU ties UConn for the sixth-most titles among college basketball programs.The championship comes in Kansas’ 16th Final Four and first Final Four appearance since 2018. KU hadn’t been back to the national championship game since 2012 when it lost to Kentucky.

Before the second half began it was impossible to rule out a Kansas comeback but it was, quite frankly, remarkable how quickly the game turned. And that comeback also happened despite Ochai Agbaji’s four missed free throws within a minute in that span.

Agbaji finished with 12 points on Monday night and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player over McCormack despite the big man's season-high against Villanova on Saturday night and his clutch buckets late against North Carolina.

The Jayhawks looked like they had more energy than the Tar Heels after the break after playing incredibly poorly for the first 20 minutes. It also helped that Braun and Wilson started making their shots after they went a combined 2-of-14 in the first half. Wilson even missed four shots near the rim before halftime.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 04: Kansas Jayhawks players react after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 72-69 during the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship at Caesars Superdome on April 04, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 04: Kansas Jayhawks players react after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 72-69 during the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship at Caesars Superdome on April 04, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

How North Carolina built its first-half lead

The Tar Heels led 40-25 at the half in a lead that was even more remarkable given what happened at the start. Kansas got off to a hot start much like it did against Villanova on Saturday night and was quickly up 7-0.

UNC outscored Kansas by 22 the rest of the way as the Jayhawks looked lost and had a hard time making shots anywhere on the floor. Kansas was just 10-of-33 from the field in the first 20 minutes and North Carolina, quite frankly, wasn’t much better. The Tar Heels were just 12-of-33 from the field but dominated Kansas on the boards. UNC had eight offensive rebounds in the first half and the continuation of possessions was a huge reason the Tar Heels took such a big lead.

Bacot grabbed 10 rebounds in the first half despite that ankle injury. He finished the game with 15 points and 15 rebounds before he limped off the floor.

Kansas led 11-5 after the hot start and never led again until it was 53-50 after North Carolina took a 20-18 lead with 8:46 to go in the first half. The Jayhawks tied the game at 22-22 but Brady Manek hit two threes to extend North Carolina’s lead to six and spark a 16-0 first-half run that lasted less than four minutes.