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2016-2017 UNC basketball

The Results (33-7) click each game for an analysis

Tar Heels 95, Tulane 75 See season preview & review below
Tar Heels 97, Chattanooga 57 Georgia Tech 75, Tar Heels 63
Tar Heels 93, Long Beach State 67 Tar Heels 89, Clemson 86
Tar Heels 83, Hawaii 68 Tar Heels 107, NC State 56
Tar Heels 104, Chaminade 61 Tar Heels 93, Wake Forest 87
Tar Heels 107, Oklahoma St. 75 Tar Heels 96, Florida State 83
Tar Heels 71, Wisconsin 56 Tar Heels 85, Syracuse 68
Indiana 76, Tar Heels 67 Tar Heels 90, Boston College 82
Tar Heels 95, Radford 50 Tar Heels 91, Virginia Tech 72
Tar Heels 83, Davidson 74 Miami 77, Tar Heels 62
Tar Heels 73, Tennessee 71 Tar Heels 80, Pittsburgh 78
Kentucky 103, Tar Heels 100 Tar Heels 83, Notre Dame 76
Tar Heels 85, Northern Iowa 42 Duke 86, Tar Heels 78
Tar Heels 102, Monmouth 74 Tar Heels 97, Notre Dame 73
Tar Heels 65, Virginia 41
Tar Heels 74, Louisville 63
Tar Heels 80, Pittsburgh 78
Virginia 53, Tar Heels 43
Tar Heels 90, Duke 83
Tar Heels 78, Miami 53
Duke 93, Tar Heels 83
Tar Heels 103, Texas Southern 64
  Tar Heels 72, Arkansas 65
Tar Heels 92, Butler 80
  Tar Heels 75, Kentucky 73
  Tar Heels 77, Oregon 76
  Tar Heels 71, Gonzaga 65
© 2017 CB3media Cary, NC

UNC 2017 National Champions
Tar 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.
Video

2016-17 UNC Season Preview
Will the Tar Heels shoot some threes, play some D and will depth be the key?

Last season, the North Carolina Tar Heels went into the basketball season with high expectations, being ranked in the top 3 of most preseason polls. After some unexpected losses, the Heels finally gelled late and lived up to those expectations - losing to Villanova in the NCAA finals.

The 2016-17 version, without leader Marcus Paige and All-America Brice Johnson, may or may not make it back to the championship game but Carolina has a good chance to finish with a comparable record.

The Heels have six very experienced players although Theo Pinson, a 6-6 junior swingman, has been lost for much, if not all, of the season with a broken foot. Pinson, who led the team in assists per minute last year, is expected to make it back on the floor by late January.

If he returns earlier, he could be an impact player as Coach Roy Williams had planned to start him at the off-guard position. If he's not ready until late January, the Heels might think about getting a medical redshirt for him.

By then a crop of new talent will be enmeshed with returning starters Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks and Joel Berry, and experienced players off the bench in Nate Britt and Isaiah Hicks.

Pinson's injury could provide freshman Seventh Woods with some early-season time but the 6-foot-1 speedster in probably more in line to play point guard behind Joel Berry.

Brandon Robinson, a thin 6-foot-5 freshman guard, has impressed teammates and coaches with his shooting ability. If he becomes a three-point threat, his value and playing time will greatly increase. Again, with the absence of Pinson early, he'll get an opportunity as will sophomore Kenny Williams, who came in as a three-point phenom but who failed to deliver.

Britt, a senior, should start and get the majority of playing time at the No. 2 guard spot in Pinson's absence. While only scoring five points in 15 minutes per game last year, Britt has shown flashes of brilliance and has been a spark off the bench. He could be a wild card for the Heels this season.

The freshman most likely to make an immediate impact this season is 6-foot-10 freshman Tony Bradley, who was ranked No. 17 in the country's senior class last year. His 7-foot-4 wingspan should come in handy under the boards. He scored nine points and hauled in eight rebounds in the UNC exhibition game against Pembroke.

Unless the Tar Heels go with a big lineup, which is rare considering the tempo at which Coach Williams likes to play, he'll be coming off the bench to spell Hicks, who himself was the top big man off the bench last season.

If Hicks can stay out of foul trouble, he could be one of the best interior players in the country. If not, look to see a lot from Bradley. Hicks averaged nine points in 18 minutes per game last season. That could be a reasonable expectation from Bradley this season unless sophomore Luke Maye, who played just over five minutes a game last year, shows marked improvement.

The 6-foot-8 Maye, known as a rebounder, has shown improvement so far as he demonstrated in the exhibition game against Pembroke where he scored 15 points, missed just one shot and grabbed eight rebounds.

The team's top rebounder is expected to be 6-foot-10 senior Kennedy Meeks. An inconsistent player who didn't make the normal improvement between his sophomore and junior seasons, Meeks will be out to prove his worth with Brice Johnson graduated. He'll be counted on to create some of the down-low offense that Johnson provided. How well he does that could indicate how far the Tar Heels will go in the NCAA tournament.

But the keys to the success of the 2016-17 UNC basketball team are two players who thought about turning pro after last season - juniors Joel Berry and Justin Jackson. The ACC media has already picked Berry to its preseason All-ACC team and Jackson to its preseason All-ACC second team.

If the Tar Heels are to challenge favored Duke for the ACC crown, they'll likely need Jackson to be a first-team All-ACC player as well. Someone's got to pick up the scoring slack vacated by the graduated seniors, especially Johnson. Jackson, who averaged 12 a game last year, needs to improve that stat by four or five points per game.

Meanwhile Berry will have to take on the leadership duties of Paige in addition to his ability to drive the lane or hit a long, or even pull up mid-range, shot. He's a steadying influence on the Tar Heels and keeping him healthy will be a key.

Despite being an experienced team, there are many questions about this year's team. Will the loss of Pinson hurt them, especially defensively? Can the Heels improve on their three-point shooting? Will the freshmen provide the needed depth, particularly if foul trouble or injury plagues Carolina?

The ACC should be even stronger - top to bottom - this season than it was last year. The Tar Heels could be as good as last year and yet not do as well in the conference or the NCAA tourney.

I'm thinking the Heels will go something like 31-8 and reach the Elite 8. But if the ball bounces just right, the Tar Heels could be in a position to avenge its narrow lost in the NCAA finals last season.

- Clifton Barnes