North Carolina fights off Gonzaga to win sixth national title

North Carolina is the national champion once again.

The Tar Heels fought off a spirited effort from fellow No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Monday, winning 71-65 to cap a back-and-forth, foul-filled thriller.

It’s the sixth national championship for North Carolina and third in the Roy Williams era. The Heels also won under Williams in 2005 and 2009.

Joel Berry II led the way for the Heels, scoring 22 points on 7 of 19 shooting. Carolina star Justin Jackson struggled but scored 16 points on 6 of 19 shooting.

Gonzaga didn’t run from the spotlight in the first half, controlling most of the opening 20 minutes and leading by as many as seven three different times as the Tar Heels struggled to make a shot. North Carolina went just 11 of 36 from the field. Jackson was particularly stifled, shooting just 3 of 10 in the first half.

The Bulldogs weren’t much better. Przemek Karnowski was 0-4 and Nigel Williams-Goss just 2-6 to start, but Josh Perkins gave them a big lift with 13 first-half points.