NEW YORK (AP) Perhaps with an assist from the memory of Villanova's Kris Jenkins, viewership for the NCAA national championship game between Gonzaga and North Carolina was up 30 percent from a year ago.
The players were selected after no one played particularly well in what Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said was an "ugly" 71-65 win for North Carolina over Gonzaga. After the possession arrow favored North Carolina on a tie-up, Isaiah Hicks made a basket to push the lead to 68-65 with 27 seconds left.
Berry finished just 7 for 19 from the field, 4 for 13 from 3-point range and 4 of 8 from the line.
Carolina shot 35 percent from the field, a percentage point worse than it did in Saturday's semifinal win over OR, which stood, for two days, as their worst shooting night in a tournament win since 1967. "Justin Jackson's 0-for-9 from the 3-point line and he rushed so many of them". With Gonzaga trailing by three and looking to tie, Kennedy Meeks blocked a determined Nigel Williams-Goss and the play led to a breakaway and game-securing dunk. Behind some great play from Perkins who managed 13 points and two assists, Gonzaga looked good. The Tar Heels shot 35.6 percent, while Gonzaga shot 33.9 percent.
The win didn't just put Williams in North Carolina's upper echelon.
Meeks was a big part of UNC's 8-0 run to end the game, coming up with a huge block and then a steal in the game's last 20 seconds to wreck two straight Gonzaga possessions. "I think this group was tough enough".
The problem was Berry had seemed to be trending in the wrong direction in this year's tournament. The Bulldogs have been a mainstay in the NCAA tournament since.
North Carolina, one shot short of the national championship a year ago, made sure a potential heartbreaker did not even get to the rim this time.
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Williams-Goss scored 23 points in the semifinal win over SC.
Gonzaga didn't score again, though in a game that left fans from both sides booing a spate of over-officious officiating, the game couldn't be settled without a controversial (non) call in the last minute.
Gonzaga's Zach Collins, hero of a semi-final win over SC, fouled out with 5:03 left in the game.
Gonzaga was pretty solid in the first half but the lights started to go out for the Zags in the first 2:00 of the second half.
"The biggest challenge is their transition defense", Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
That spot, he insisted following the most recent championship in a 71-65 win over Gonzaga at University of Phoenix Stadium, is reserved for only one coach.
He quickly changed the subject to the banner they'd be putting up in Chapel Hill's Dean Smith Center, his third banner and the Tar Heels' sixth. Meeks, fresh off his 25-point, 14-rebound performance against OR in the Final Four, had just four points and five boards and Hicks' struggles continued, as he went 1-for-5 in the half, but getting the Gonzaga bigs out of the game is what opened up the offensive glass and allowed UNC to get back into the game. "I'm sitting over there, I'm not thinking the officials are doing a bad job", North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. But as Few said in regard to the missed call, "that's just the way it goes". "We broke that glass ceiling everybody said we couldn't get over".