Home Page banner.cb3cartoon.
Check back prior to the 2008 season for a preview and a program outlook.
Click here for Carolina baseball analysis.

Off the cuff: It will be interesting to see how this championship game goes down in history. Will it be remembered more as redemption for a tough last-second loss in the finals the year before? Or will it be remembered as an ugly game that got no flow because of referees blowing their whistles too much.

Most Carolina fans will probably be in the former camp but people just watching the game around the nation may think the latter.

The Tar Heels, despite poor shooting from the field and the free throw line, again found a way to win. This time it was tough defense, coupled with another late run.

If you were told that Justin Jackson would miss all nine of his three-point shot attempts, you'd figure that UNC would have lost. Combine that with Kennedy Meeks, the hero of the semi-final game, being in heavy foul trouble and you have a recipe for disaster.

But Gonzaga wasn't shooting well either and the Zags had several players in foul trouble. It was a strangely officiated game as touch fouls were called while body-bangs and push offs were often ignored.

The matchup of two teams each with strong, big inside players and penetrating guards may have been different than any other game the officials called this year.

I don't think the outcome would have been different had the game been called better but it certainly would have been a more enjoyable game.

For Tar Heel fans, about the only thing enjoyable about that game was the last 25 seconds when Isaiah Hicks scored on a nice drive to the hoop and Jackson scored on a dunk.

You certainly can't say that UNC didn't close games this year. The Heels scored the last 12 points in a tournament win over Arkansas. They went on a 12-0 run against Kentucky as well. And in this game, the Heels scored the final eight points of the game.

Joel Berry said, during the final media timeout with 3:08 left, that Assistant Coach Steve Robinson reminded the team about that moment in last year's game and how they don't want to feel that way again.

"We came out locked in," Berry said.

After wrapping up the win with a dunk in the closing seconds, Jackson said he had all kinds of emotions running through him. "I wanted to yell out as loud as I could but I had nothing in me."

In 2017, Carolina proved it was a tough, focused team that found a way to win and left it all on the court.

UNC 2017 National Champions
Heels get redemption in gritty slugfest

A year after getting a kick in the gut in the final second of the NCAA Tournament title game, North Carolina got redemption with a tough slugfest victory over Gonzaga to give the Tar Heels their sixth national championship, 71-65. (4/3)

As has been the trend this season, the Tar Heels found a way to win and was able to close out the game.

Down 65-63 with less than two minutes to play, Carolina indeed closed out the game with an 8-0 run.

Justin Jackson, who had missed all nine of his three-point attempts, came up with an old-fashioned three-point play inside, following a sharp pass from Theo Pinson, with 1:40 left to give the Tar Heels a 66-65 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss, who had scored 15 points, missed a jumper. Pinson got the rebound for Carolina. The Tar Heels burned clock but couldn't score. Kennedy Meeks was able to get a tie up, giving the possession back to the Heels with 49 seconds left.

The Heels burned the clock and Isaiah Hicks drove the lane to bang one in at the end of the shot clock, giving Carolina a 68-65 advantage.

Williams-Goss drove in the lane but Meeks came up with a block. Joel Berry recovered the ball and threw ahead to Jackson for a dunk to all but wrap it up at 70-65 with seconds remaining.

Meeks stole a desperation pass and Berry was fouled. After a timeout to re-gain his composure, he hit one of two free throws before the celebration began.

"Forget my shooting - we're national champions!," said Jackson, who did manage to score 16 points.

But it was Berry, still not 100 percent after two turned ankles, who led way with 22 points on his way to the Most Outstanding Player award of the Final Four.

"It's been a hard road," Berry said. "Now we can forget about last year."

Senior Nate Britt said the team talked about this day and this feeling for quite some time. "We set a goal and we achieved our dream to get back and make it happen," he said.

UNC coach Roy Williams said there is no better feeling for a coach than to see his "kids jump around" after a national championship win. Still, he said it didn't take away the pain of last year because Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James didn't get to experience the feeling.

It was a frustrating feeling for much of the game as the officials called 44 fouls, including 11 in the first four-plus minutes of the second half. Neither team could get any flow on the offense.

As poorly as Carolina shot, less than 36 percent, the Heels held Gonzaga to 34 percent shooting. It was the first time this year that a team shot better than Gonzaga, which finishes the season 37-2.

"Neither team played very well but both teams played really hard," Coach Williams said. He did praise his team's second half defense after giving the Zags too many open threes in the first half when Gonzaga took at 35-32 lead at the break.

He admittedly blessed his team out at the half and reminded them that the Heels led by five at the half in last year's finals and Villanova came out hungrier and wound up winning.

This year, Carolina scored the first eight points of the second half, highlighted by four points and an assist by Berry.

But Gonzaga came back to take a 43-40 lead, and the lead went back and forth setting up a hectic and emotional last few minutes. There were 12 lead changes and 11 ties during the game.

With Carolina holding a 59-57 lead and less than five minutes remaining, the Tar Heels seemingly got the ball back with a lead. But officials, incorrectly, ruled that a Williams-Goss three-point shot went off Pinson's hand out of bounds. After giving the ball back to Gonzaga, Williams-Goss knocked in a three, giving the Zags a 60-59 lead with 4:30 left.

Seconds later, Berry drained a three to give the lead back to Carolina at 62-60.

Another Williams-Goss bucket put Gonzaga up 65-63 with 1:50 left, setting up Carolina's 8-0 run that gave the Heels the title.

"Isaiah knocked in a big shot and Kennedy got a big block," said Berry, who said he almost started to cry after he threw it to Jackson for the game-clinching dunk.

Hicks, who scored 13, said that the feeling was 180 degrees different from last year. "What we worked for was finally here. It's surreal," he said.

Carolina finishes the season of redemption at 33-7. There will be a celebration at the Smith Center at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Box Score

Check out highlights here.

Check out the other game articles.
Read my Tar Heels' season preview on by clicking here.

© 2017 CB3media Cary, NC