GLENDALE, Ariz., Sporting Alert — North Carolina bounced back from the heartbreaking buzzer-beating loss last year with a 71-65 win over Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament championship game on Monday night.
MVP Joel Berry had 22 points with six assists, three rebounds and two steals to lead the Tar Heels to victory.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Berry is the first player to score at least 20 points in back-to-back NCAA Tournament championships games since Bill Walton did so for UCLA (1972-73).
Justin Jackson, who delivered the go-ahead three-point play with 1:40 left in the game and also had a late dunk to finish off the Bulldogs, added 16 points, four rebounds and two blocks for North Carolina, which scored the last eight points of the contest.
Isaiah Hicks shot 5-of-9 from the field to finish with 13 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Kennedy Meeks chipped in with 10 rebounds, seven points, two key blocks and two steals for the Tar Heels (33-7), who pulled away to win the school’s sixth national title.
Nigel Williams-Goss, who is expected to return for his senior year next season, had 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead Gonzaga (37-2), which led 35-32 at halftime.
The only other player scoring in double-digits for the Bulldogs was Josh Perkins, who finished with 13 points with three 3-pointers.
Monday night championships game saw the teams combining for 44 fouls (22 apiece) and 52 free throw attempts (26 each).
North Carolina was celebrating their redemption season, a year after losing on a 3-pointer buzzer-beating shot to Villanova.
“They wanted redemption,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “I put it on the locker room up on the board — one of the things we had to be tonight was tough enough. I think this group was tough enough tonight.”
Gonzaga and North Carolina struggled to get going in the foul-filled second half, but the Tar Heels finished the game on a 9-2 run to help coach Williams secured his third NCAA Tournament championships.
The win saw moving one ahead of his mentor, Dean Smith, and is now behind only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp.
Williams was delighted with his achievement, but remains humbled.
“I think of Coach Smith, there’s no question,” Williams said. “I don’t think I should be mentioned in the same sentence with him.
“But we got three because I’ve got these guys with me and that’s all I care about right now — my guys.”