An unwatchable game turned into a attractive night for the Tar Heels, who turned a free-throw contest into a championship they've been waiting an entire year to celebrate. Karnowski had 13 points and five rebounds in the Bulldogs' win over SC on Saturday, while Meeks had 25 points and 14 rebounds in the Tar Heels' win over OR in the other semifinal.
Gonzaga led by two with 1:52 remaining, but finished 37-2 after reaching the Final Four and title game for the first time in its program's history. The teams combined for a whopping 39 personal fouls, 21 in the second half.
Pictured above: Gonzaga guard Jordan Mathews drives to the basket past SC guard Sindarius Thornwell during Gonzaga's Final Four win April 1 to advance to the NCAA men's college basketball championship.
Meeks came up with the biggest play among the bigs when he blocked Nigel Williams-Goss' jumper with 16 seconds left and the Tar Heels leading 68-65. They each took an NCAA courtesy vehicle, loaded their assistants in for the ride, and relaxed before the big games.
Senior center Przemek Karnowski is a load inside at 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, while freshman 7-footer Zach Collins is a future first-round National Basketball Association draft choice. Gonzaga's Zach Collins, the 7-foot freshman, fouled out. Collins, Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams and Carolina forward Kennedy Meeks all had four fouls by that point on the clock.
The foul calls stirred up boos from the crowd and backlash on social media, including a tweet from LeBron James, who said: "Man I can't watch this anymore man!"
The Tar Heels started the second half on an 8-0 run that was punctuated by a mid-range jump shot from Berry II.
Those were the last windows of separation either team would enjoy until the very end.
"I had no idea", Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after the game.
Center Przemek Karnowski got up his third foul right after that, but stayed in the game.
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Per Doug Haller of AZ Central, teammates Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson joined Berry on the All-Final Four team.
Instead, the most talked-about part of North Carolina's 71-65 victory was the officiating.
For a whole year, the North Carolina Tar Heels wondered if they'd get another chance. We can't get a delay and say, 'We're not ready.' You've got to play.
No. 1 North Carolina outlasted No. 1 Gonzaga, 71-65.
The half also saw some offensive no-shows for both teams. It was a formula, once North Carolina began to make more shots, that sealed the outcome. The Bulldogs entered the tournament with 9-1 odds of winning it all. Josh Perkins, UNC's Joel Berry, and Jordan Mathews teamed up to hit a trio of three-pointers on consecutive possessions.
For a whole year, the Tar Heels thought about what might have been. Karnowski was 1 of 8 from the field for nine points. His season-high scoring total is 18 points. Gonzaga, in its first Final Four after spending nearly two decades chugging up the mountaintop, is in the other. Second, is its misses. The block led to the game-clinching dunk by North Carolina's Justin Jackson.
"Sprained it pretty good", said Williams-Goss, who finished with 15 points.
The Tar Heels are basketball aristocracy, but Gonzaga has been a small-school challenger for years.
Gonzaga struggled while its two big men fought foul trouble in the second half and lost its shooting touch, its bid for the program's first national championship dashed by a loss to North Carolina.