In a back and forth affair in Glendale, Arizona, the North Carolina Tar Heels managed to just hang on to a 71-65 victory over the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Joel Berry, part of the UNC squad that lost at the buzzer to the Villanova Wildcats in last year’s game, scored a game high 22 points on 7-19 shooting, and 4-8 from the line. Berry also hauled in three rebounds, had six assists, and came away with two steals too, on his way to the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Game of runs
Basketball, as everyone surely knows, is a game of runs. And in the 2017 NCAA Championship game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the North Carolina Tarheels, there were plenty from both sides.
The first half was mostly dominated by Gonzaga, a school still searching for their first ever championship. The Bulldogs went on an 11-4 run to take an impressive 21-14 lead through the midway point of the opening half.
But then, the Heels went on their first run to get back into the game, clawing away slowly at the deficit. Berry, the MVP, started things off by draining a big time three pointer before coming up with a steal. Then, Justin Jackson finished near the rim after grabbing an offensive rebound to trim the deficit to just two points.
North Carolina takes over second half
It was in the second half where the tide slowly began to change.
North Carolina scored the first eight points coming out of the locker rooms, as they looked the more focused, energized team. The Tar Heels knew what was at stake, having been so close to the summit less than almost exactly one year ago.
While the Bulldogs, under head coach Mark Few, continued to fight underneath the rim with big men Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins. got into major foul trouble, which limited their effectiveness. Collins eventually fouled out having a quiet night on the offensive end, coming away with only nine points.
Before Collings fouled out though, Jonathan Williams hit a big three pointer to give the Bulldogs some life, as they trailed by one with 5:26 remaining in the game. The teams traded two more made shots from behind the arc, with Berry hitting the latter of the two to make it 62-59.
Gonzaga managed to take the lead once more off a Nigel Williams-Goss jumper, but UNC held strong into the end, making all the plays when it mattered most of all.
To end the game, one more hectic play sealed the deal for Roy Williams and North Carolina. Kennedy Meeks blocked a Williams-Goss shot attempt with 14 seconds left, and Berry heaved his ensuing pass up court to a wide open Jackson who finished the game off emphatically with a dunk.