On Monday, April 3, 2017, the University of North Carolina and Gonzaga University battled for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in Phoenix, Arizona.
The game tipped off at 9:20 p.m. EST from the University of Phoenix Stadium. According to NCAA.com, over 76,000 fans attended the game. Another 22,998,000 fans tuned in to watch the game.
It was no easy task for either team to make it to the championship game. UNC defeated the University of Oregon in the Final Four 77-76, while Gonzaga defeated the University of South Carolina 77-73.
UNC was propelled to victory from a stud performance from senior forward Kennedy Meeks. According to ESPN.com, Meeks scored 25 points and added 13 rebounds in the Tar Heels’ victory.
Gonzaga received a star performance from junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss in the win over USC. According to ESPN.com, Williams-Goss had 23 points, five rebounds, and six assists in the Bulldogs’ victory.
After advancing to the championship game, each team turned their attention towards bringing the trophy home with them.
“I was surprised to see Gonzaga go to the Final Four because they lacked competition during the regular season. Last year and the season before they lost in the second round because of their lack of talent against the better competition,” senior Brandon Bradsher said.
After the first 25 minutes, the Bulldogs held the lead. UNC roared back in the second half and defeated Gonzaga by a final score of 71-65. The Tar Heels received outstanding performances from Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II.
According to ESPN.com, Jackson posted 16 points while Berry added 22 points for the Heels. Berry was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“I was surprised to see Berry named MOP,” Bradsher said. “I thought Jackson was going to get it.”
The victory was bittersweet for UNC, having lost last year’s championship at the buzzer to Villanova.
“‘I wanted to see this confetti fall on us,’” Joel Berry II said in Mike Lopresti’s article on NCAA.com.
“This national championship, after all, does nothing to avenge the ache for Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, seniors last season whose collegiate careers ended in that gut-wrenching loss to Villanova. But the Tar Heels themselves believed it. They started a group text and labeled it ‘Redemption.’ Theo Pinson turned an agonized picture of himself, head covered by a towel as he sat disconsolately in his locker room, into his screen saver,” Dana O’Neil wrote in an article on ESPN.com.