After suffering a heartbreaking loss in last year’s national title game against Villanova, the North Carolina Tar Heels were the winning side this time as they took down Gonzaga 71-65, in a battle of No. 1 seeds Monday night at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
With the win, the Tar Heels became just the fourth team in NCAA history to bounce back after losing the national championship the previous year. UNC head coach Roy Williams also won his third national championship for the Tar Heels to pass mentor Dean Smith.
The game was a close throughout, although some parts were hard to watch with 44 fouls called and 52 free throws attempted. But in the end, the Tar Heels made one last play to win its sixth championship in program history, the third most in NCAA history.
Down two with 1:40 left in the game, UNC’s Justin Jackson took a pass under the basket from teammate Theo Pinson, made the layup and got fouled in the process for the go-ahead three-point play. UNC scored the final eight points to pull away.
UNC’s Joel Berry scored a game-high 22 points, six assists and four 3-pointers to lead the Tar Heels to victory. Berry’s 20-plus points put him in some elite company as the point guard became just the first player to score 20-plus points in back-to-back national title games since Bill Walton did so in 1973.
UNC star forward Kennedy Meeks was held to just seven points, but the senior had 10 rebounds two blocked shots and two big steals. Meeks was also huge on defense as he held Gonzaga’s big man Przemek Karnowski to just nine points on 1-of-8 shooting.
To add icing on the cake, Williams won his 100th NCAA Tournament game Monday night and is now just one of six coaches with three national titles in a game that he’ll remember for the rest of his life.