North Carolina was denied a chance at the NCAA men's basketball title by a last-second shot last year. This year, they're going back to the Final Four with the help of a last-second shot of their own.
Sophomore reserve Luke Maye nailed a tie-breaking jumper with 0.3 seconds to go to lead the Tar Heels to a 75-73 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats in the South Regional Final Sunday evening in Memphis.
Maye's heroics came seconds after Kentucky's Malik Monk hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 73 with 7.2 seconds left. It was a dramtic ending to a breathtaking game between the top two seeds in the region.
Trailing 64-59, North Carolina went on a 12-0 run and led 71-64 with 54 seconds to go. Kentucky battled back, as Monk and freshman De'Aron Fox hit quick three-pointers to make the score 71-70.
A Justin Jackson layup made the score 73-70, UNC. But he missed the front end of a one-and-one with a chance to ice the game, leading to Monk's game-tying trey.
As the Kentucky fans celebrated, Theo Pinson brought the ball downcourt and passed back to Maye. The sophomore from Huntersville, N.C., knocked it down from just inside the three-point line.
"I'm the guy that wanted him to come as a walk-on, so how dumb am I?" Williams said. "He (made) some big-time plays today, big-time plays two days ago [against Butler in the regional semifinal]."
Maye finished with 17 points off the bench for North Carolina. Justin Jackson scored 19 points, and Joel Berry II added 11.
Kentucky (32-6) will miss out on the Final Four for the second straight year. The Wildcats had one last chance, but Derek Willis' inbound pass went out of bounds on the far end. Willis and sophomore Isaac Humphries left the court with towels over their heads, and Fox was the last to leave.
The Wildcats had hoped their talented freshmen would carry them. Bam Adebayo and Fox each had 13 points, and Monk, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, finished with 12.
Never before had the NCAA Tournament pitted powerhouse programs that have so dominated March. This South final featured Kentucky with the most tournament wins all-time with 124 and North Carolina just behind with 120.
But this was just the fourth time these blue bloods have met in a regional final. The result was much the same as the others with North Carolina now 3-1 against Kentucky as the Tar Heels avenged a 103-100 loss on Dec. 17 in Las Vegas.
Kentucky led for only 3:57 in a game North Carolina had a big edge on the boards (44-34) and inside where the Tar Heels outscored the Wildcats 34-26.
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. Fox played only 8 minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul with 12:23 left. Adebayo easily was the most frustrated as he missed all five shots in the half with Kennedy Meeks swatting away one of his attempted dunks.
North Carolina led by as much as nine a couple times before both teams went into shooting slumps. The Tar Heels led 38-33 at halftime.
North Carolina will play Midwest Region champions Oregon in next Saturday's Final Four at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The other semifinal will feature a match-up of first-time Final Four participants, as West Regon winner Gonzaga faces South Carolina, champions of the East Region.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.