GLENDALE, Ariz. – As it always does, “One Shining Moment” was played after the National Championship. Good thing, too.
It certainly wasn’t during the game.
While some NCAA Men’s Basketball title contests feature two teams in an excellent display of basketball, this one didn’t. It was full of turnovers for one, inconsistent shooting for both, and enough controversial foul calls to send everyone into a tizzy.
All the fans – the more than 70,000 in the University of Phoenix stadium and millions watching at home – could at least hope for a thrilling ending with the teams at an arm’s length for most of the game.
That did and didn’t happen. Gonzaga and North Carolina were tied with 100 seconds left in the game before the Tar Heels’ defense took control. They held the Bulldogs scoreless in that time period, allowing for a quick 6-0 run that led to a 71-65 National Championship game victory.
In a match-up in which neither team shot over 35 percent and 22 fouls were called on each, North Carolina emerged with its sixth title in program history. It also marks the third won by head coach Roy Williams since taking over the program in 2003.
Joel Berry II led the way with 22 points despite playing with two ankles which he suffered spains during this year’s NCAA Tournament. He was still named Most Outstanding Player for the NCAA Tournament, getting the first steal of the game that led to the first points and then hitting a free throw to put away the Tar Heels’ first title in eight years.
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 15 for Gonzaga and gave them the lead with a hoop with 1:55 to play. But the Bulldogs wouldn’t score again and lost the lead on a Justin Jackson three-point play 15 seconds later. Goss had a chance to tie on the next possession but missed a shot and led to a controversial moment of the game.
After a missed three pointer, the Tar Heels’ Kennedy Meeks went for the rebound and got tied up with Gonzaga’s Silas Melson. While having his hand on the ball, Meeks appeared to touch the end line which would have given the ball to the Bulldogs. Instead the referees awarded the ball to North Carolina, who extended the lead to three on an Isaiah Hicks bucket.
From there the Tar Heels took over as Meeks blocked a Goss shot that led to a breakaway dunk for Jackson. A turnover on the next possession sealed the win for North Carolina, who celebrates in the glory of a championship even if the game that made that happen wasn’t exactly the prettiest.