The Latest: N Carolina up 39-34 at half of championship game

HOUSTON (AP) — The Latest on the championship game of the NCAA Tournament between Villanova and North Carolina (all times local):

9:10 p.m.

The final game of the Final Four has been fabulous so far. At the half it is North Carolina 39, Villanova 34.

North Carolina is 26-4 with leading at halftime this season. Villanova is 1-4 this season, when trailing at the half. This is the first time the Wildcats have been behind at the break during the NCAA Tournament.

Joel Berry II, who averages 12.6 points per games, has 15 for North Carolina, including a coast-to-coast layup that had Villanova coach Jay Wright calling a timeout late in the first half.

Brothers Kris Jenkins and Nate Britt were on the floor at the same time in the in the final minute. Britt scored on a floater for the Heels. The backstory: Britt’s parents became Jenkins’ legal guardians in 2007 at the request of Jenkins’ mother.


8:58 p.m.

North Carolina is shooting 31.7 percent from 3-point range from the season, ranking 290th in the nation. The Tar Heels are 6 of 8 on 3-pointers in the NCAA championship game.

Joel Berry II has made three. His last one gave North Carolina a 30-29. Justin Jackson, the only Texas native in this game, has made both of his long-range shots so far.

Marcus Paige picked up his second foul for the Tar Heels. Kris Jenkins, who had two early fouls for Villanova, came back in the game after nine minutes on the bench and scored two consecutive baskets for the ‘Cats.


8:49 p.m.

When North Carolina is hitting its 3s to go with its excellent inside game, the Tar Heels are almost impossible to beat. On four straight trips, the Tar Heels scored, including three 3-pointers, to take a 25-23 lead with less than seven minutes remaining.

Justin Jackson, Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II all hit corner 3s that had Villanova coach Jay Wright pleading with his players to rotate better on defense.

The Wildcats’ offense is humming right along. They came into the game hitting 58 percent from the floor for the tournament. So far, Villanova is 10-for-18 (55 percent).


8:43 p.m.

Maybe incidental contact, but sign of some physical play.

A referee stepped in between North Carolina’s Justin Jackson and Villanova’s Josh Hart after Hart wound up on the floor following a made basket by the Wildcats. The two were tangled while waiting for a possible rebound, when Jackson slung his body around and knocked Hart down.

After two semifinal blowouts, the final game of the Final Four is looking like it should be a good one. It’s Villanova 17-14 with 10:40 left.


8:37 p.m.

Villanova’s depth is going to get tested early. Kris Jenkins, the Wildcats’ second leading scorer, picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and went the bench. Moments later, Jenkins’ brother, Nate Britt, entered the game for North Carolina. The brothers have not yet been on the court at the same time.

The two were very much looking forward to this matchup, though they wouldn’t be going head-to-head if they were on the court together. Jenkins is a 6-foot-6 forward and Britt is a 6-foot-1 guard.

At the second TV timeout, Villanova led 14-12.


8:30 p.m.

At the first TV timeout, the national championship game is tied at 7.

Ryan Archidiancono already has five points for Villanova, and followed his 3-pointer with a steal before missing another 3. The first timeout came after Villanova’s second foul at the 15:41 mark. The Wildcats had only two fouls in the entire first half in their semifinal win against Oklahoma.


8:25 p.m.

The first basket of the national championship game is scored by Joel Berry II, who hit a 3 less than two minutes in.

A sloppy start for Villanova. Freshman guard Jalen Brunson misses a quick layup, and North Carolina turns ball over on first possession.


8:15 p.m.

What a performance of the national anthem, with fireworks going off overhead.

Petty Officer First Class General Wilson, a retired sailor, sang before the NCAA championship game.

Wilson has performed his renditions of patriotic songs across the United States, and as usual, got a roaring ovation when he was done.

The starting lineups have been announced. Time for basketball.


8:09 p.m.

MJ is on the house. Coach Rollie, too

Michael Jordan has arrived at NRG Stadium to watch his North Carolina Tar Heels play Villanova for the NCAA Tournament championship.

Jordan is one of several dozen former Tar Heels expected to be in attendance as North Carolina goes for its sixth national title.

Jordan’s late jumper in 1982 helped North Carolina beat Georgetown in the national championship game and give the late, great Dean Smith his first title as Tar Heels’ coach.

On the Villanova side, former coach Rollie Massimino made it to the game. The 81-year-old is still coaching in Florida at NAIA Northwood. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get to the game because his wife has been ailing.

Massimino led the Wildcats to the national title with an upset over Georgetown in 1985.


7:52 p.m.

A lot of Villanova students made the 1,500-mile journey from Philadelphia to Houston for the Wildcats’ first NCAA championship game since 1985.

Those sitting in seats on the floor at one end of the court — well, only a handful of them are sitting — just started a loud chant as the Wildcats took the court.

Anticipation is building for tipoff.


7:48 p.m.

The North Carolina Tar Heels are on the court for warmups, with about 30 minutes until tipoff.

They got quite an ovation, and understandable considering all the Carolina blue in the big stadium.


7:43 p.m.

The starting lineups for the NCAA championship game:

Villanova (34-5): Junior forward Kris Jenkins; senior forward Daniel Ochefu; freshman guard Jalen Brunson; junior guard Josh Hart; senior guard Ryan Arcidiancono.

North Carolina (33-6): Junior forward Kennedy Meeks; senior forward Brice Johnson; sophomore forward Justin Jackson; sophomore guard Joel Berry II; senior guard Marcus Paige.


7:10 p.m.

North Carolina and Villanova roll into the NCAA Tournament championship game, averaging a combined 20 points per victory so far.

Tipoff at NRG Stadium in Houston is set for 8:19 CDT on Monday night. The Tar Heels are looking for their sixth national championship, and third since coach Roy Williams took over in 2003-04. North Carolina is in the championship game for the 10th time.

The Wildcats are making their third title game appearance and first since winning their only championship in 1985. If Villanova wins Monday night, its 31-year gap between championships will be the second largest in NCAA Tournament history behind Kansas, which went 36 years between titles (1952-88).

The Tar Heels are 5-1 against the Wildcats in NCAA Tournament play. The last meeting came in the first round of the 2013 tournament.

Villanova beat Oklahoma by a record 44 points in the Final Four. North Carolina beat Syracuse Saturday night.


AP sports writers Ralph D. Russo and Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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