Cheering students flooded the streets on the Villanova campus after the Wildcats defeated North Carolina at the buzzer for the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
Forward Kris Jenkin’s final three-point basket clinched the win for the Wildcats, 77-74. That bucket came at the end of an increasingly tense second half, one that saw Villanova pull into and keep a seven-point lead, only to lose it in the final minutes.
With the clock showing less than five seconds left, UNC’s Marcus Paige tied up the game with a three point shot.
Jenkins answered with his own at the buzzer. An electric shock jolted the tense crowd of more than 3,000 watching the game from Villanova’s Pavilion arena.
Watching from the floor of the arena, sophomore Liam Johnson described those final seconds as unbearably stressful. “My heart was pounding, I didn’t think I was going to survive it,” he said.
“They have such big bodies, I did not want to go into overtime with them,” said sophomore Chris Rura, holding his face in his hands. “I can’t believe Jenkins hit the shot. I am in utter disbelief.”
The scene on campus after the game was reminiscent of Animal House, with police in riot gear on stand-by.
After a quiet afternoon, 4,000-plus students from the Pavilion and across campus swarmed the intersection of Lancaster and Ithan avenues, before setting up camp in a section of campus known as the Quad.
In the street, some students hung from lampposts, chugging drinks. Others climbed trees, pulling down branches. Many simply hugged each other or took triumphant selfies, flashing a “V” for Villanova.
In the Quad, students crowded around a bonfire, spraying beer and setting off fireworks.
Most revelers on campus weren’t even born when Villanova won its last national championship in 1985, but alumnus Jack Reese drove down from his home in Collegeville to watch with the crowd. He said the celebrations reminded him of tying one on 31 years ago.
“I was dragged up through a window on the second floor [of Sullivan residence hall],” said Reese. “I wound up calling my girlfriend at three o’clock in the morning, which I don’t remember doing. She’s now my wife of 30 years.”
A public safety officer who did not give his name said there were over 200 officers on campus watching the crowds for dangerous activity.
Police closed Lancaster Avenue while students celebrated, but began clearing them out after 2a.m. As of the wee hours of the morning, at least six people were arrested and another two dozen injured, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Justine McDaniel.