HOUSTON -- With 4.7 seconds left in a tied national championship game, Daniel Ochefu walked over to the little boy charged with mopping up the wet marks on the court and politely took the mop out of his hands.
The Villanova coaching staff likes to tell its players, "Be the best street sweeper you can be."
Ochefu decided to take the motivational motto literally, pushing the mop back and forth, back and forth, a good 10 times to make sure every last drop of sweat from the spot on the court where he'd just fallen was gone.
That's because the senior knew what was coming, even if no one else in the building would believe it long after it had happened.
Ochefu set a screen that popped Ryan Arcidiacono on the sideline inbounds play.
As Arcidiacono sped over midcourt, amid the din of 74,340 people both screaming and holding their breath at the same time, he heard one distinctive voice -- Kris Jenkins screaming at him.
"I just heard Kris yelling, 'Arch, Arch, I'm open,'" Arcidiacono said.
The guard flipped the ball to the trailing Jenkins, who caught the ball in stride, squared his feet and let the 3-pointer go.
And time paused, if it didn't stop altogether, as nearly 150,000 eyeballs inside the building turned to the basket as the ball flicked off Jenkins' fingertips and headed on its trajectory toward the rim.
"Physically, I watched it, but I don't think I actually understood it,'' Villanova assistant coach Baker Dunleavy said of his perch on the bench.
"Oh, I watched it. I watched it. I just can't believe it,'' said Wildcats head coach Jay Wright's wife, Patty, sitting in the first row on the aisle directly behind the bench.
"I knew. I knew. Because he was set and his shoulders were square,'' Joe Arcidiacono, Ryan's dad, said of his view from section 108.
"Do you know how many times I've seen that kid take that shot in the summer? At least 1,000. I knew it was going in,'' said Toronto Raptors All-Star and former Villanova player Kyle Lowry, who was sitting just behind Patty Wright and her three kids.
"I knew it was good. I knew it was in before the red light went off,'' said Villanova team chaplain Father Rob Hagan, who at Mass earlier in the day spoke about the vines and the branches and how they must stay connected to bear fruit.
"He takes those shots all the time and sometimes I want to kill him,'' Jay Wright said. "But sometimes he makes them too.''
Jenkins made this one, giving Villanova a 77-74 win, its first national championship since 1985, and putting the perfect frenetic finish on a chaotic season.
The shot will be replayed over and over again, standing alongside Lorenzo Charles' air-ball catch-and-dunk for NC State in 1983 and Christian Laettner's turnaround that lifted Duke over Kentucky in 1992.
But it's the entirety of the last 4.7 seconds that truly defines who this Villanova team is.
"That entire play, that sums up what we've been about all year,'' said Phil Booth, who came off the bench to score a career high 20 points for the Wildcats. "We trust each other. We believe in each other.''
By all rights, that faith should have been tested seconds earlier. In the last five minutes of the game, the Wildcats had coughed up every bit of a 10-point lead, looking as though they were headed to an epic collapse instead of an incredible win.
And then, with 13.5 seconds left, the Tar Heels managed to get the ball exactly where they wanted it, in Marcus Paige's hands on the right wing. The senior had all but willed the Heels back into this one, so when he got the ball, Ochefu dove at him, falling to the ground and forcing Paige to go high up in the air to shoot over Arcidiacono, who jumped out at him in the last second.
With his legs splayed in a pose that would make Michael Jordan, sitting in the stands nearby, proud, Paige somehow got the ball over Arcidiacono's reach, swishing what looked like the shot of the season.
"I told my team when I made the shot, we go to overtime, we got 4.7 seconds to play defense and this game is ours,'' Paige said. "No matter what, we were going to win the overtime because that's just how the game was going to go.''
Really, that's how the game should have gone and 99 times out of 100 would have gone.
Except for Villanova.
These Wildcats do not win because they have flashy pro picks or one superstar. Four players scored in double figures in this title game, and three more found their way into the box score. They are, always, a collective effort, winning because they string one small act with another, connecting tiny building blocks into major victories.
In this case, from a mopped-up floor to the perfect pass to the swishing 3.
Wright called a timeout after Paige's bucket, setting up a play the Wildcats have practiced countless times.
The idea is simple: Get the ball in the hands of Arcidiacono and let him make a decision.
"In the huddle, I mouthed to him, 'Shoot it,'" Ochefu said.
The Wildcats broke the huddle and Arcidiacono frantically pointed to the spot on the floor where Ochefu had slipped, asking the officials to get it cleaned up.
The kid with the mop eventually came over, but he couldn't quite find the spot where Arcidiacono was pointing.
"I knew the little kid was having a hard time,'' Ochefu said. "I knew exactly where I had to set the screen. I didn't want to slip. I didn't want Arch to slip. I'm the one that dove, so I left a big, wet spot on it. So I was like, make sure the floor is dry.''
Satisfied with his effort, Ochefu sprung his guard with the screen.
Most everyone in the building figured Arcidiacono would do exactly what Ochefu suggested -- shoot it.
Arcidiacono is the rarest of rare, a four-year team captain, and thereby the exact right player with the ball in his hands at the exact right moment. After Wright had made a conscious decision to undo what he'd let his roster become -- built with highly sought-after recruits who were decent people but not entirely committed to the idea of long Villanova careers -- he went after Arcidiacono, a suburban Philly kid whose parents are Villanova graduates.
"He's a senior with the game on the line; that's supposed to be his shot,'' Jenkins said. "But he passed it to me.''
Arcidiacono passed it, he said, because it was the right play. Jenkins was wide-open and he wasn't. But how many kids do that in an ordinary situation, let alone in the frantic final seconds of a national championship game. Who in that moment has the presence of mind to give up the most shining moment of all?
"That's Arch,'' Wright said. "That doesn't surprise me at all. That's who he is. That's why we are who we are.''
And so Arcidiacono flipped the ball to Jenkins, a self-described "chubby kid from Washington, D.C.," to make the shot.
Wright recruited Jenkins only because he wanted Nate Britt.
Britt and Jenkins played on the same AAU team coming up and Jenkins' mother -- worried her son might go down the wrong path -- asked the Britt family if they might take her son in. They did happily, and Jenkins moved from South Carolina to D.C.
Wright went to recruit Britt and also spoke with Jenkins, but Wright told Jenkins the only way he could come to Villanova was if he was willing to change his entire diet and commit to reinventing his body.
Jenkins welcomed the challenge and Wright, stunned at the kid's commitment, said, "We want this guy.''
Jenkins rode a bike to lose weight and endured tests and weigh-ins for years, losing the weight but never his nerve, sometimes taking Wright's perpetual green lights to maddening levels.
So when Arcidiacono tossed him the ball, Jenkins never hesitated. With all eyes going toward the rim, he let it fly.
No one else could believe what they were seeing.
After watching "One Shining Moment" almost stoically -- everyone else patted him on the head as the song hit its crescendo with his game winner, but he didn't so much as smirk -- he climbed down from the dais, the championship trophy still clutched to his chest.
"I knew it was going in,'' he said. "My teammates set me up perfectly.''
Because that's the way it works at Villanova.
One guy got to be the hero because two others decided they didn't need to be the hero.
They could just be really good street sweepers.