Berry Overcomes Injuries To Lead Tar Heels To NCAA Title

Justin Jackson's three-point play with 1:40 to play sparked an 8-0 run to close the game as North Carolina outlasted Gonzaga 71-65 in Monday night's NCAA men's basketball championship game.

It was the kind of effort that made his Hall of Fame coach proud, especially since it was Hicks that blamed himself for allowing Villanova's Kris Jenkins to hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer that cost UNC the national title a year ago.

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.

North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II shook off ankle injuries that have plagued him through the tournament to keep the Tar Heels within reach.

Berry was named the outstanding player of the Final Four. Jackson had 16 points, while Hicks had 13 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and one steal.

The final featured a matchup of the two active coaches with the best winning percentages - Gonzaga's Mark Few (81.9 percent) and North Carolina's Roy Williams (79.0 percent). Williams-Goss finished with 15 points, but connected on just five of 17 from the field.

I stayed up late to watch the North Carolina-Gonzaga NCAA Men's Championship game Monday night. "But we've received a tremendous amount of hurt already over the last three years". The Bulldogs led 35-32 at the half, but North Carolina came out of the locker room flying.

North Carolina's two best players on Monday night?

The game was by no means a pretty one; it was marred by bricks, missed free throws and questionable officiating.

During the second half, the Tar Heels came out strong again with a dunk by Kennedy Meeks.

Gonzaga's Collins was the first casualty of the foul-fest.

The Tar Heels came into this year's tournament as heavy favorites and now they can rightfully walk out as the last ones dancing.

The flow of the second half was constantly interrupted as both teams found themselves in the bonus six minutes in.

"He's superstitious like I am, " Williams said. Three minutes into the second half, he committed an bad turnover that ended an 8-0 North Carolina run and set the Zags up for an 8-0 run of their own, a surge that ended what felt like a game-changing swing of momentum at the start of the second half. Meeks couldn't do much besides draw the ire of Williams, who slapped the court in disgust after a sideline conversation with his burly senior.

The sports talk host on Tuesday blasted the refs in North Carolina's 71-65 win over Gonzaga for turning the contest into a "whistle fest and a foul fest with really just unbelievable calls". And without his epic 25 points and 14 rebounds Saturday against OR, the Tar Heels might have been watching Monday's game on TV.

"But I know one thing", he said. "And I was able to put my pain aside and just think about them first".

After trailing for most of the first half, creating extra possessions is how the Tar Heels took the controlling position in the second.

  • Larry Hoffman


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