North Carolina beats Gonzaga for NCAA collegiate crown

Thirty minutes after Gonzaga's 71-65 loss in Monday night's national title game, the photo had already started circulating through a crestfallen Zags locker room. The Tar Heels scored the first eight points of the second half to take a 40-35 lead and forced Gonzaga coach Mark Few to use a timeout 2:45 into the half.

Hicks stood closer than any of his teammates to Villanova's confetti-drenched celebration immediately after Kris Jenkins' 3-pointer splashed through the net to end last year's national championship game.

For a year now - nearly exactly to the day - all these North Carolina players wanted was a chance to redeem themselves, an opportunity to erase the heartbreak from last April's national championship game loss. UNC tried to redeem itself after losing to Villanova past year on a buzzer beater. It also marked his 100th NCAA tournament victory, an accomplishment a fellow Tar Heel congratulated him for.

Before Monday's contest, Hicks only averaged six points over in the previous four games.

Gonzaga (37-2) missed nine consecutive shots in the second half and went 8:27 without a basket, but North Carolina (33-7) didn't have the offense to deliver a decisive run as it remained a one-possession game for nearly all of the second half.

Roy Williams summed up that stat line bluntly: "He had stunk it up for the last couple of weeks most of the time".

It was a odd night in many ways, with all the North Carolina players not named Berry missing their first 12 attempts from 3-point range - including Jackson's first eight - while Berry made three, matching his tournament high in the Butler game. He seemingly hung in mid-air for a couple seconds, then pushed the ball off the backboard and in with 21.9 seconds left. In the biggest game of your careers, no less.

The former Douglas County High standout is a reserve guard on the Tar Heels team that defeated Gonzaga 71-65 on Monday night in the NCAA Div.

"I haven't had any", he said. "But I'm always about team".

"It's so surreal. I had to pinch myself one time".

Forty-four fouls, man! There were 44 goddamn fouls called during last night's game, and 27 of those whistles were blown in the second half. Meeks received some support on social media for the Most Outstanding Player award that ultimately went to Joel Berry.

"He's a shooting point guard ... but the last three weeks since he had the sprained ankles he shot a awful percentage", Williams said.

"I really don't", he told reporters. "It's two teams that desperately wanted to be crowned national champion".

After UNC scored with 25 seconds left to extend the lead to three, Gonzaga attempted to inbound the ball quickly, but wasn't fully out-of-bounds.

"We were going to play Collins and Karnowski together to match up size-wise and help us on the glass", Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd said. "But let me think on it". But as Karnowski was flailing after the ball, he grabbed Berry around the neck and, after a long delay, got called for a flagrant foul of his own.

But the refs ruined what had the potential to be a great national championship.

  • Larry Hoffman