By: Kylan Watson
Last night, the University of North Carolina’s Men’s Basketball team beat Gonzaga University in the 2017 National Title game by a score of 71-65. The Tar Heels redeemed themselves after losing in the 2016 national title game to Villanova University. The Tar Heels used their experience, defense, and explosive offense to win the game. With the victory the Tar Heels now have six championships and have ended an eight-year title drought in men’s basketball.
The main goal for UNC was to get back to the national title game, and win that elusive championship. The Tar Heels were beaten on a three-point buzzer beater shot made by Villanova forward Kris Jenkins. The Tar Heels worked very hard to make it back to the title game. They had to beat the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Butler University Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, and Gonzaga. The Tar Heels won these games by five points or less. During the tournament, UNC became very adept at playing close games and relied on their rebounding, defense, coaching, and offense to lead them back to the title game. All those tough games helped UNC not to panic while playing Gonzaga in last night’s game.
Gonzaga was the biggest team UNC faced all season. They matched UNC in size, rebounding, and this team was also very experienced. However, this was Gonzaga’s first title game in the program’s history. The inexperience of Gonzaga began to show, especially during the final minutes of the second half. Gonzaga players were missing wide open three-point shots, easy inside baskets, and were in foul trouble. The Zags were led by guard Nigel Williams-Goss who scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and recorded six assists. Williams-Goss single-handedly kept the Zags in the game. Despite Williams-Goss’s best effort, the offensive barrage by UNC proved to be too much for Gonzaga to handle. The Zags were also done in by the number of fouls their big men had. UNC took full advantage and kept scoring baskets from the paint, forcing the big men to make a play. Gonzaga’s best center Zach Collins, fouled out of the game, and their best offensive player Przemek Karnowski picked up his fourth foul late in the game, and played very tentatively throughout the game.
The X-factor for UNC was the play of guard Joel Berry II, Berry hit two very clutch shots to put the Tar Heels in front. Berry hit a clutch hook shot to put the Heels up by two points with about 1:14 left in the game. Berry also played tenacious defense and was a true difference maker for UNC. Berry scored 22 points, recorded six assists, and grabbed three rebounds.
With the win, UNC now has six championships in men’s college basketball, Roy Williams has three championships in his coaching career at UNC, which ties Carolina great Dean Smith. It does not seem like Williams or the Heels will be slowing down anytime soon, and the 2016-2017 Tar Heels now have earned the label of redeem team.