Fouls, misses make for no flow in March Madness finale
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The sounds of the NCAA Championship game were whistles and moans.
It just never seemed there was a flow to the game that North Carolina won 71-65 on Monday night for its sixth national title.
Each team had 22 fouls but it was the big men who took the brunt of it.
Both teams like to get the ball inside but when it did go in there was usually a whistle.
”It was an ugly game. I mean, I don’t think either team played exceptionally well offensively,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. ”The second half, they shoot 27 percent and we shoot 35 for the game. So I don’t think either team ever got in a real good flow. The fouls were part of it.”
”Those were three of the best officials in the entire country, in the NBA or college. I thought they did a great job,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. ”These are two heavyweights going at it, playing very physical. You still have to officiate the game and I thought they did a good job.”
Kennedy Meeks, the man in the middle for North Carolina, finished with 7 points, four fouls and a huge blocked shot.
Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski never got in the flow of the game and finished with 9 points and four fouls. His backup, Zach Collins, played just 14 minutes and fouled out with 5:03 to play.
”I’m not going to talk about refs,” Karnowski said. ”It was just a physical game.”
Since the inside didn’t provide answers to a takeover run, both teams were forced to go outside and the Tar Heels were amazingly able to win shooting just 4 for 27 (14.8 percent) from 3-point range.
Gonzaga was 8 for 19 (42.1 percent) from 3 but none of the big men were able to break double figures.
”The game is so big that you get so hyped up, you have to control your emotions and be able to play within yourself,” Williams said. ”Justin Jackson’s 0-for-9 from the 3-point line and he rushed so many of them.
”In a normal game he may not have done that. So I think it was the magnitude of the game had a lot to do with it and the defenses on both ends, on both teams, I think had something to do with it.”
Williams said it was ”very difficult” game to call.
”I’m sitting over there, I’m not thinking the officials are doing a terrible job. I swear to goodness, that’s not what I’m thinking. I’m thinking our offense stinks,” he said. ”I told them don’t worry about what the referee is doing, he missed a call, but, my God, we missed four free throws in a row, missed layups. So we were at fault just as much as anybody else.
”But it was an ugly game because two teams really wanted it badly and the other team wasn’t going to allow them to have easy things,” Williams said.
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. When there was a break in play after North Carolina went up 70-65, Meeks ran and hugged coach Roy Williams in front of the bench.
”We were negotiating through massive foul issues, ones that we haven’t had all year,” Few said. ”It was not looking good with 10 to go there. I thought we navigated our way to tie it in the final minute.”
With 53 seconds left there was a scramble for the rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Joel Berry II of North Carolina.
Meeks and a Gonzaga player were on the court and a jump ball was called with possession to the Tar Heels. Screen captures from the broadcast showed Meeks’ hand was out of bounds.
”That’s probably on me,” Few said. ”I had no idea. I just, from my angle it didn’t look like it was a situation where there was an out-of-bounds situation or I else I would have called for a review.”
The title game that has always been called the ugliest was Connecticut’s 53-41 win over Butler in 2011. Six years later North Carolina gives a challenge to that title but it doesn’t matter because both teams are called national champions.
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