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April 30 2017, 06:42 | Van Peters
North Carolina Makes Bid For NCAA Championship
Turns out, maybe the junior point guard was just saving it all for one big moment: the chance to give North Carolina the national championship that had slipped so painfully away a year earlier. The title game featured a matchup of the two winningest active coaches by winning percentage - Gonzaga's Mark Few (81.9 percent) and North Carolina's Roy Williams (79.0 percent).
It had been 364 days since Kris Jenkins hit one of the most memorable shots of all time in the NCAA tournament.
The Tar Heels came into this year's tournament as heavy favorites and now they can rightfully walk out as the last ones dancing. They wanted this: A title of their own.
That left Gonzaga unable to effectively initiate its inside-out game or protect the rim as aggressively as it had in the first half. However, the Bulldogs outside game was working quite well. He has the most wins of any player in Division I history, at 137, and was a part of both Gonzaga teams that reached No. 1 rankings and a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, including the 2013 team.
Both teams have size in the middle and quality depth at the position. The first half certainly didn't disappoint, keeping things close, clean and fun to watch in the process. Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins each were in foul trouble for a majority of the game.
A stop-and-start second half didn't help either team find a rhythm.
With the game on the line against the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and Kentucky, Williams dialed up the defense.
In the opening minutes of the second half, UNC went on an 8-0 run to take a 40-35 lead. However, Gonzaga would make their way back into the game.
But to say everything went right for Roy Williams' team at this Final Four would be less than the truth. Battling back and forth, swapping the lead through the next few minutes a flagrant foul on Karnowski seemed to changed the energy for Gonzaga. However, Gonzaga's offense was not up to these same high standards.
Gonzaga's Zach Collins, hero of a semi-final win over SC, fouled out with 5:03 left in the game. They'll also wonder what might have been had leading scorer Nigel Williams-Goss not re-aggravated an ankle injury with the Zags trailing by one point with 1:25 to play.
"I told my team with three minutes left: 'If you had told me on the first day of practice that we would be in this position I would have taken it.' What we had to do was play the last three minutes". Meeks finished with seven points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
The Tar Heels are the 2017 NCAA champions in men's basketball.
When he shot well, especially from beyond the arc, North Carolina thrived.
NOTES: North Carolina appeared in its 11th national championship game, having it won it in 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005 and 2009. This would allow them to overcome a poor shooting performance from members of their team, such as the 0 for 9 on 3-pointers from McDonalds All-American Justin Jackson. Possession was given to the Tar Heels after a pile- up underneath the basket, although Kennedy Meek's right hand appeared to be out of bounds while struggling for the ball.
This was a championship game only North Carolina fans could love.