Marshall Snow Thomas
It was a game filled with fouls and lead changes, but at the end of the historic night, the glass slipper fit North Carolina best, and they were crowned National Champions.
The Tar Heels came into the game, after a win on Saturday against Oregon, a game in which they missed four free throws in the last ten seconds and still pulled off a one point win, due to their offensive rebounding. Gonzaga had a similar situation in their previous game, escaping the grasp of South Carolina by four points.
It was Gonzaga’s first trip to the title game, and their first appearance in the Final Four. For North Carolina, they are no stranger to the biggest stage in college basketball, being one of the nation’s most storied programs. Carolina fell victim to one of the greatest moments in Final Four history, as Villanova shocked the Tar Heels with a game winning shot at the buzzer to be crowned national champions.
Coming off their best regular season in school history, the Bulldogs were the number one ranked team coming into the NCAA tournament, and even with some close victories, managed to find their way to the title game. In the first half on Monday night, it was Gonzaga who had the hot hand, who took the lead in the first half.
The game was almost overshadowed by poor referring calls, that halted the game several times. There were 44 fouls and 52 free throws between the Bulldogs and the Tar Heels. Gonzaga, who had lost just one game all year prior to title game, committed 14 turnovers. Their powerful Polish powerhouse Przemek Karnowski finished just 1-for-8 from the field, including several big missed in the final few minutes. “It was an ugly game, “said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams in an interview with USA Today. However, even though they know how bad their team played, the fans in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, could care less about the sloppiness.
Led by 22 points from point guard Joel Berry, and suffocating defense, the Tar Heels found themselves going back and forth in the second half with the scrappy Bulldogs. Clinging to a one point lead with under 30 seconds to play, Isaiah Hicks drilled a jumped to increase the Tar Heel lead to three. On Gonzaga’s next possession, the Bulldogs’ Nigel-Williams-Goss drove the lane looking for a lay-up, but was denied by North Carolina Kennedy Meeks, which led to a championship clinching slam dunk by Justin Jackson, in front of 76,168 fans in the massive Phoenix University Stadium.
What was an ugly national championship game, turned into a beautiful moment for North Carolina, as they were able to claim their sixth title. UNC finished the game on an 8-0 run, avenging their loss to Villanova in 2016. In 2017, the confetti came down on the Tar Heels.