In the final 1:40 of the national championship game in Glendale on Monday evening, the North Carolina Tar Heels outscored the Gonzaga Bulldogs 8-0 to turn a 65-63 deficit into a thrilling 71-65 victory and redemption for last season’s heartbreaking loss.
North Carolina standout Justin Jackson helped the Tar Heels shine in the brightest moment of the tournament — after Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss hit a jumper to take a two-point lead with 1:55 remaining, Jackson moved down the baseline without the ball.
Matched up against Williams-Goss, who is listed as five inches shorter than Jackson, the lanky wing cut into the paint and created enough separation to finish near the rim over the smaller defender on a pass from Theo Pinson.
And one — Williams-Goss fouled Jackson on the play, and the Tar Heels took a lead it never relinquished on the ensuing free throw.
Having rolled his right ankle on the ensuing possession, Williams-Goss left his next jumper short, leading to one of the more bizarre moments in the game. Joel Berry missed a three pointer and Kennedy Meeks nearly secured the rebound, eventually drawing a jump ball call after a scramble on the floor.
However, he was out of bounds — the ball should have been awarded to Gonzaga, but North Carolina kept possession with the arrow.
Ref staring at Kennedy Meeks blatantly out of bounds. Carolina ball. No biggie. pic.twitter.com/TEPmVqvaXX— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) April 4, 2017
The Tar Heels took advantage with another big-time shot in the paint.
After running 23 crucial seconds off the clock, Isaiah Hicks hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity before finishing around the rim, putting the Bulldogs in desperation mode.
Meeks blocked the shot by Williams-Goss coming out of a timeout, sparking a fast break that resulted in another assist from Pinson to Jackson, this time a thunderous dunk that essentially put the game away with 12 seconds remaining and North Carolina leading 70-65.
When Meeks intercepted a pass from Krzemek Karnowski, the game was officially out of reach for Gonzaga, and Roy Williams claimed his third national championship thanks to another clutch performance from the most mentally tough team in college basketball.