The Latest: North Carolina ‘tough enough’ to outlast Zags
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Latest on the championship game of the NCAA Tournament between North Carolina and Gonzaga (all times local):
North Carolina coach Roy Williams says his team finally got the redemption it needed after a heartbreaking buzzer-beater in last season’s title game.
The Tar Heels scored the final eight points of an ugly, foul-filled second half to beat Gonzaga 71-65. Williams attributed the strong finish to the team’s motto all season – ”tough enough.”
Joel Berry II, despite two sore ankles, had 21 points and five assists to lead the Tar Heels, the South’s No. 1 seed.
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 16 for the Bulldogs in their first Final Four. The Zags lost for only the second time in 39 games this season.
A jumper by Williams-Goss with 1:39 left put Gonzaga up 65-63. The Zags never scored again.
There were 44 fouls called, 27 in the second half.
North Carolina has its sixth NCAA basketball championship.
The Tar Heels survived an ugly, foul-filled second half to beat Gonzaga 71-65. They scored the final eight points of the game to pull out the win.
Gonzaga center Zach Collins is the first casualty of the foul-fest in the NCAA championship game.
The freshman 7-footer fouled out with 5:03 remaining the second half.
There were whistles everywhere in the second half of the NCAA championship game – and it certainly kept Gonzaga and North Carolina from getting into any kind of flow.
With eight minutes to go, 39 fouls had been called. That included 22 in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
Gonzaga’s Josh Collins, Johnathan Williams, and Przemek Karnowski had four apiece, as did Kennedy Meeks for the Tar Heels.
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!”
North Carolina’s Joel Berry II is shaking off his ankle injuries to lead the Tar Heels’ struggling offense.
Berry had 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting with three 3-pointers through 10 minutes of the second half, providing the only outside shooting punch for the Tar Heels with Justin Jackson struggling.
The rest of the team is 0 for 11 from 3-point range, and fouls were problem for both teams.
Gonzaga has found itself in foul trouble just a couple minutes into the second half.
Gonzaga center Zach Collins picked up his third foul less than two minutes into the second half and went to the bench.
Zags coach Mark Few took a gamble and put the 7-foot freshman back in the game, but he picked up his fourth foul at the offensive end with 15:53 left and had to go back to the bench.
Center Przemek Karnowski got up his third foul right after that, but stayed in the game. North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks also got his third foul right around the same time.
North Carolina’s prowess on the boards was a major story line in the first half of the national championship game.
Gonzaga held its own early, but let North Carolina get some key boards late that helped the Tar Heels keep it close. Gonzaga coach Mark Few admitted so much, saying ”we kind of got crushed there at the end.”
Gonzaga outrebounded North Carolina 25-23.
The half also saw some offensive no-shows for both teams.
North Carolina senior Isaiah Hicks was 1-for-4 from the field, including one turnaround bank shot on a pretty post move that ended up rattling out. The 6-foot-9 forward was 1 for 12 in Saturday’s win against Oregon in the national semifinals.
Josh Perkins scored 13 points, and Gonzaga led through most of the first half of the NCAA championship game.
The pesky Tar Heels kept it close, going into the break trailing 35-32.
Perkins, a sophomore guard, averaged eight points a game this season. He had zero field goals in two of the last three games, against West Virginia and South Carolina. His season-high scoring total is 18 points.
For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels had early shooting problems. They shot 31 percent.
It’s been a rough first half for Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski. The 7-foot-1 big man has missed all four of his shots, has three turnovers and had to go to the bench with his second foul.
Gonzaga is doing a solid job of blocking out in the first half of the national championship against North Carolina, even getting their guards involved to clean up defensive rebounds.
North Carolina is the nation’s top offensive rebounding team and grabbed two on missed free throws to outlast Oregon in the Final Four, but has had trouble so far getting to the offensive glass.
At one point in the first half, Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss blocked off 6-foot-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks so the Zags could grab the offensive rebound.
With four minutes left in the half, Gonzaga had outrebounded the Tar Heels 22-16.
Gonzaga is throwing a couple different approaches at North Carolina in the first half of the national championship game.
Less than four minutes into the game, Gonzaga put both its big men on the floor – Zach Collins and Przemek Karnowski. Collins had his first career double-double in the semifinals against South Carolina.
On the defensive side, Gonzaga is taking the small approach to guarding North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, putting point guard Nigel Williams-Goss on him.
Jackson causes matchup problems because he’s a good shooter and strong off the dribble for a 6-foot-8 player. Williams-Goss is a superb defender, but gives up five inches to Jackson.
The Zags’ decision has worked early in the game, as Jackson has yet to get on track. The standout for Gonzaga has been guard Josh Perkins, who scored 8 points early. He averaged 8 points per game this season.
The NCAA championship game is on.
The North Carolina Tar Heels and Gonzaga Bulldogs tipped off in front of another gigantic crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium.
This is nothing new for the Tar Heels. They’ve won five NCAA titles and were in the championship game last year, losing at the buzzer to Villanova.
This is the first NCAA title game for Gonzaga, finally making it in its 19th consecutive tournament appearance.
Retired Navy Petty Officer First Class Steven Powell sang the national anthem.
North Carolina and Gonzaga took the court for pregame warmups to boisterous cheers from their fan sections in the minutes leading up to the national championship game.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams walked onto the court casually chatting with a security guard before shaking hands with fans in the student section. Several minutes later, the Gonzaga team ran through the same tunnel to loud cheers from the Bulldogs fans.
Tar Heels players slapped hands with people on sidelines as they warmed up while Gonzaga fans waved signs proclaiming ”Witness History.” North Carolina fans held up signs boasting of the school’s five NCAA national championships in men’s basketball.
The betting public is supporting Gonzaga, but the sharps in Las Vegas appear to be backing North Carolina to win the NCAA title.
Wagering trends released by William Hill US on Monday night show that 64 percent of the bets on the money line wager are backing Gonzaga to win the NCAA Tournament. But 78 percent of the amount of money wagered on the bet is backing the Tar Heels, meaning North Carolina is getting fewer but more substantial bets.
William Hill operates more than 100 sports books in Nevada.
The money line is at plus-100 for Gonzaga, meaning a win pays at even money. North Carolina is at minus-120, meaning a bettor would need to wager $120 to win $100.
The shift is slight but meaningful in games where the spread is close – North Carolina is favored by 1 point and that means some gamblers who want to back Gonzaga might prefer to just take slightly better money line odds.
Gonzaga accounts for about 55 percent of the money wagered and tickets on the spread.
About one-fourth of those who filled out brackets on ESPN and Yahoo still have a chance to correctly call the March Madness champion.
About 15 percent of bracketeers on ESPN and 17 percent on ESPN picked North Carolina to win the title before the tournament started, making the Tar Heels the most popular selection for champion in the 68-team field.
Gonzaga is the fifth most popular pick on both platforms as a champ on about 9 percent of brackets.
More popular as title picks than Gonzaga: Villanova, Kansas and Duke.
Not bad for a tournament that wrecked brackets all over the field, especially in the East region where No. 7 seed South Carolina made the Final Four. Far fewer than 1 percent of brackets predicted the Gamecocks to go that far.
Two of the top teams coming into March Madness are set to settle the title in the 67th game of the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina and Gonzaga play Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. Tipoff is set for about 6:20 p.m. local time, 9:20 p.m. EDT.
The final pits two of the most elite teams in college hoops against one another: both the Tar Heels and the Bulldogs boast top-level coaches, guards and interior players.
Down low, Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski faces North Carolina’s 6-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks. Meeks had a career game in the Final Four against Oregon with 25 points. Gonzaga also has Zach Collins, a 7-foot freshman who could be a one-and-done player.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams is chasing a third title is his fourth championship game. Gonzaga coach Mark Few had never made the Final Four before this season, but has taken the Zags in all 18 years he’s led.
For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25