By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
North Carolina was hungry for another shot. They did not want to suffer the heart ache that they suffered when the Villanova Wildcats defeated them with a buzzer-beater last April.
Their minds were on redemption all season. Almost one-year to the day of that loss, the Tar Heels captured what they couldn’t when Kris Jenkins’ jumper slipped through the net.
North Carolina got a 71-65 win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the National Championship game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
They are just the fourth team to recover from losing the national championship one-year to win it the next. This is their sixth National Championship in school history.
Roy Williams, the North Carolina head coach, has become the first head coach to win three national championships at his alma mater. All three national championships have come since 2005 – with the prior one coming in 2009.
Williams now has one more national championship than his mentor Dean Smith. It’s the Tar Heels first national championship since Smith passed away.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has claimed the football and basketball National Championships in the same year. This is the third-time it has happened, as it also happened in 1981-82 and 1990-91.
Late in the contest with the Bulldogs down three, Kennedy Meeks came up clutch with a key block. Then, Justin Jackson scored on a breakaway dunk to put the game out of reach.
Isaiah Hicks gave the Tar Heels a three-point lead with a huge basket with only 22 seconds left in the game. Prior to his basket, UNC had just a one-point lead and the game was close late.
Both teams struggled shooting from the field. North Carolina shot 14.8% from three-point range. Gonzaga shot 28% in the second half – and 33.9% overall.
The Tar Heels shot 30.6% from the field in the first half. Meeks and Jackson combined for 10 first-half points.
“Wow,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “You know, just it was a great ballgame. It was a slugfest out there. It’s two teams that desperately wanted to be crowned national champion. And I think to be so close for us is a temporarily crushing blow right now. But I’m hoping and knowing that perspective will come with time. And these guys will realize just what an amazing accomplishment they had. And what an amazing effect they had. I mean, the basketball community was really stale on the Zags.
“And these guys ignited it and got everybody back to believing that this program was capable of doing this, and more than capable of winning a national championship. And they absolutely ignited the whole world to that. So couldn’t be prouder of a group. The hardest thing for me, the thing that drives me to tears is not being able to coach this complete group again. So that’s the one that’s getting me. I think we’ll eventually realize that — put the game into perspective.”
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