In a stop-and-start game with 44 fouls and 52 free throws, North Carolina outlasted Gonzaga, 71-65, in the national championship in Glendale on Monday.
“It was very much a rock fight,” CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It was a grinder. Most games at this level with these sort of athletes are played above the rim; this was much closer to the floor. Flailing bodies, a lot of fouls – it kind of reminded me of that UConn/Butler Final Four game a few years ago where the shooting was just horrible and Connecticut outlasted them. But give North Carolina credit for pulling away late.”
UNC trailed 35-32 at halftime but outscored Gonzaga 39-30 thereafter. Joel Berry II scored a game-high 22 points for the Tar Heels (33-7), shooting 4-of-13 from three-point range. The rest of his teammates shot a combined 0-of-14 from distance. As a team, UNC shot 35.6 percent from the floor.
Gonzaga (33.9 percent) was worse.
“Well, in the second half, Gonzaga shot terribly,” Dodd said. “I thought it was a key turnaround from the first half. North Carolina was being out-rebounded 21-12, and Kennedy Meeks had sat out for a long time. He comes back in and something just energized North Carolina on the board. Obviously he’s a big body and he helps, but they got 11 of the next 14 rebounds. They played to form. Gonzaga was every bit as worthy as North Carolina of winning that game. There wasn’t much separating those two schools.”
Nigel Williams-Goss led Gonzaga with 15 points and six assists, while Josh Perkins chipped in with 13. Przemek Karnowksi, however, struggled offensively, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds on 1-of-8 shooting from the floor.
After 19 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the Zags (37-2) advanced to their first Final Four in program history, but the elusive national title remains – at least for another year.
“They’ll be back,” Dodd said. “I don’t think there’s any question (about that).”
North Carolina, meanwhile, won its sixth national title in program history, including its third since 2005.