Glendale, AZ – Joel Berry II scored 22 points to lead North Carolina (33-7) to a hard-fought 71-65 win over Gonzaga (37-2) to win the national championship before a crowd of 76,169 at University of Phoenix Stadium. In a game where neither team shot particularly well, Berry (4-of-13) was the only Tar Heel to connect on a three-pointer. The rest of the team was a combined 0-of-14 from long distance. Nigel Williams-Goss led the Bulldogs with 15 points and six assists but was hampered in the final minutes by a sprained ankle..
The game was tight throughout with nine lead changes and the score was tied eight times. The game was tied at 63 when Williams-Goss hit a jumper was 1:53 remaining to give Gonzaga their last lead and final points. Justin Jackson (16 points) then made a jumper, was fouled by Williams-Goss and made the free throw to give the Tar Heels a one-point lead. After an offensive rebound by Kennedy Meeks (10 rebounds), Isaiah Hicks hit a short jumper to push the lead to 68-65 with 26 seconds left. Williams-Goss then missed another jumper and after a subsequent block by Meeks, Jackson scored on a dunk to put the game away.
Gonzaga controlled much of the early action eventually running out to a 30-23 lead on a jumper by Johnathan Williams with 2:56 left in the half. North Carolina then scored the next five points, the last three coming on free throws by Berry after he was fouled on a three-point attempt by Josh Perkins. The Zags ended the half with a 35-32 lead behind 13 points from Perkins who did not score the rest of the game.
The game wasn’t particularly well played as both teams had trouble shooting. The Tar Heels shot 35.6 percent for the game but were only 4-of-27 (14.8 percent) from long-distance and 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) from the foul line. Jackson was 0-for-9 from distance and Theo Pinson was 0-of-4. The Zags didn’t do much better, shooting 33.9 percent overall but did connect on 8-of-19 three-pointers (42.1 percent) and shot 65 percent from the charity stripe. It was the third straight game here teams had trouble shooting in the large football stadium. The raised floor and setup was nice, but it looked like the perspective bothered all four teams here.
The main difference in the game was that North Carolina took better control of the ball, committing only four turnovers against 14 from the Zags. 7-1 Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski missed several shots at the rim and finished the game shooting 1-of-8. He committed four turnovers to go along with his nine points and nine rebounds.
The game was called closely with each team whistled for 22 fouls. At one point there were 16 fouls called in the first eight minutes of the second half. Along with a few video reviews, that broke the flow of the game in the second half. The game became a war of attrition for bigs. Gonzaga’s Zach Collins fouled out and Karnowski and Williams finished with four fouls each. For North Carolina, Meeks and Hicks both finished with four fouls with Meeks limited to 22 minutes of action due to his foul trouble.
Berry was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Meeks and Jackson of the Tar Heels and Collins and Williams-Goss of the Bulldogs. This was North Carolina’s sixth national title and coach Roy Williams’ third national title.
This article was written by Carl Berman, Managing Partner of NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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