PHOENIX, AZ—The North Carolina Tar Heels are the 2017 NCAA Champions, after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs 71-65, on Monday, April 3 from the University of Phoenix stadium. The Tar Heels sixth NCAA Title might be the sweetest, given their agonizing, heartbreaking loss in last year’s championship game to the Vilinova Wildcats. UNC Guard Joel Berry bounced back from his terrible shooting performance on Saturday night, leading all scorers with 22 points en route to earning Most Outstanding Player.
Gonzaga led 35-32, going into the locker room, the Tar Heels defense tightened the screws in the second half; the Bulldogs got sloppy with the ball forcing 10 turnovers and went an icy 12 of 40 from the field.
The NCAA final was redemption for North Carolina, who lost the Championship 364 days ago on a buzzer beater 3-pointer. The team showed poise down the stretch, recovering loose balls and knocking down crucial shots in the closing minutes of the season. Zags star Nigel Williams-Goss scored the teams final eight points, before being blocked by Kennedy Meeks, which led to Justin Jackson’s punctuation slam dunk to seal the deal.
Gonzaga wilted under the pressure, as The Tar Heels stifled Przemek Karnowski all game. They bodied him up, bumped him, crowded him, and kept him away from the rim. His off-balance shots often found glass and rim, but not the bottom of the net. The big Pole finished with nine points on 1-of-8 shooting. UNC Head Coach Roy Williams captured his third National Championship.