Fouls, misses make for ugly NCAA title game for UNC, Zags

Losing in the NCAA Tournament is always an emotional time for the players, particularly when it comes in the national championship game.

Now there were tears of a different kind after UNC's 71-65 victory against Gonzaga on Monday night in the NCAA Tournament national championship game.

Check out the above photo of North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks battling Gonzaga's Silas Melson for a loose ball with less than a minute remaining and the Tar Heels up by one. It was also the Bulldogs' first Final Four appearance.

The triumph at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona came in sharp contrast to the scenes of utter dejection a year ago when the Tar Heels fell to Villanova on a buzzer-beater in Houston, Texas.

Much can be debated about how the referees officiated the NCAA Tournament's championship game between North Carolina and Gonzaga on Monday night, but there is no discussion about whether they missed an important call in the final minute of the title game. Berry, named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, couldn't do it.

Jackson took a zinger of a pass under the basket from Theo Pinson and converted the shot, then the ensuing free throw to take the lead for good.

Williams-Goss finished with 15 points, but connected on just 5 of 17 from the field.

Because of the protracted NCAA investigation, and legal stalling by North Carolina, into the school's academic scandal - which involved more than 3,000 students, including basketball and football players, taking phony classes between 2007-11 - the Tar Heels have been eligible to participate in the past two NCAA Tournaments.

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Joel Berry, playing with two sprained ankles, scored 22 for the Tar Heels, becoming the first player to score at least 20 points in back-to-back title games since Bill Walton (1972-73 UCLA).

"They wanted redemption", said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who became the sixth coach to win 3 or more NCAA championships.

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski knocked the ball from North Carolina center Kennedy Meeks' hands under the basket. But as Karnowski was flailing after the ball, he grabbed Berry around the neck and, after a long delay, got called for a flagrant foul of his own. Berry said, "It came down to the last seconds but we're champions now".

This time, North Carolina found an ending it could live with just fine.

"The hardest thing for me, the thing that drives me to tears, is not being able to coach this complete group again", Few said. If the NCAA did a last two-minute report of this game like their National Basketball Association counterparts did, it would take much longer than two minutes to read it. I'm very mad, sad, ticked off, any way you want to put all that terminology about it, embarrassed and all those things too.

Some of the culprits: Berry led the Tar Heels with 22 points but needed 19 shots to get there.

"My teammates believed in me", he said. Collins' fourth foul, which forced Mark Few to sit him early in the second half, was ticky-tack at best.

Nigel Williams-Goss had given Gonzaga a 65-63 lead by nailing a short jumper with 1:55 to play, but the Bulldogs came up empty on their final four possessions after Jackson's heroics.

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