North Carolina fights off Gonzaga for 71-65 win and national championship

Posted April 09, 2017

UNC junior forward Justin Jackson said Gonzaga was playing good defense on Hicks, but Hicks was just a little better, giving North Carolina the late-game shot it needed to ultimately get redemption after losing the championship game past year to Villanova, 77-74, on a three pointer at the buzzer by the Wildcats' Kris Jenkins.

That hasn't always mattered to the NCAA of course and UNC has no guarantees that it will keep the 2005, 2009 and 2017 titles.

Coach Roy Williams had at least raised the possibility of whether Berry would be ready to play early in the week, though it seemed unlikely that the guy who might be the Tar Heels' toughest competitor wouldn't give it a go.

"It felt like last game I was trying and nothing was going in". North Carolina made only 4 of 27 from three-point range.

Gonzaga, from Spokane, Washington, lost for just the second time this season in its first ever appearance in a national championship title game.

The play occurred with the Tar Heels leading 66-65 with 49.1 seconds remaining in the game.

But the Bulldogs answered with an 8-0 run of their own, including Karnowski's first points at the 14:34 mark, and the game settled down into a close battle between two No. 1 seeds. From there, as the teams continued to trade points, the officials couldn't stop blowing the whistle.

But in the span of 40 minutes, two players encapsulated everything UNC has done this year - Berry and Isaiah Hicks. Their percentage from the field was a low 35. "I think this group was tough enough tonight". If this doesn't prompt the NCAA to consider adding a sixth foul, I don't know what will. With no timeouts, Gonzaga was finished. "And every time I took a jump shot I just tried to use my legs and some of them were short". Jackson had 16 for North Carolina, which won despite some epic struggles from beyond the arc, making only four of 27 three-pointers. Guard Josh Perkins, who had scored 13 points in the first half, committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions and the Bulldogs missed their first five shots, including an airball by Nigel Williams-Goss after Jackson had blocked his previous attempt.

Gonzaga hit 8 of 29 shots in the second half and played the final 5:03 without Collins, who fouled out after scoring seven points and grabbing nine rebounds.

Gonzaga, a Roman Catholic university in Spokane, Washington, emerged as a Cinderella team in 1999, reaching the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion CT. Meeks received some support on social media for the Most Outstanding Player award that ultimately went to Joel Berry.

This year's run by Gonzaga was no fluke, with its only other defeat coming February 25 to BYU.

The dean dome was the team's first stop after returning from Phoenix, the site of the 2017 Final Four.

At Gonzaga — a program on fantastic footing thanks to two decades' worth of building led by Few — they'll regroup and reload and try to finish the deal next year.