Isaiah Hicks Deserved His Moment In North Carolina's Redemption Story
Apr 09 2017 by Larry Hoffman
North Carolina's 71-65 win over Gonzaga in Monday's NCAA championship game turned on several key plays, but arguably none bigger than Kennedy Meeks' rejection of Gonzaga All-American Nigel Williams-Goss' shot in the closing seconds.
Past year the Tar Heels' title bid was sunk by a last-second shot by Villanova's Kris Jenkins in the title game.
North Carolina forward Isaiah Hicks scored from close in to push the Tar Heels to 68-65 with 26 seconds left.
The individual stats that stick out for the Tar Heels include Joel Berry shooting 4-13 from beyond the arc and All-American Josh Jackson going 0-9 from deep.
Berry was named the outstanding player of the Final Four, playing on two bad ankles and bouncing back from a 2-for-14 shooting effort against OR on Saturday.
The world is not lacking for Kennedy conspiracy theories, so let us not wonder whether the missed out-of-bounds call involving North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks with:50 remaining in Monday night's NCAA championship game was anything other than an honest mistake. His 13 points and nine rebounds helped offset both teams" big men hampered by foul trouble, with the "Zags' Zach Collins fouling out at the 5:03 minute mark. North Carolina took advantage of Gonzaga's foul trouble, capitalizing in 40 points in the paint compared to the Bulldogs 18. With less than 2 minutes left, they had the lead in the national title game. The 7,800-student Jesuit school in Spokane, Wash., had never made it to the Final Four before this season despite playing in 19 straight NCAA Tournaments.
The first came just before halftime and sparked a surge that saw UNC cut a seven-point deficit down to three at the break. Berry stepped to the free-throw line ... and missed both attempts.
Bulldogs freshman Zach Collins, coming off a double-double in the Final Four victory over SC, picked up his fourth foul less than five minutes into the second half.
He quickly changed the subject to the banner they'd be putting up in Chapel Hill's Dean Smith Center, his third banner and the Tar Heels' sixth.
The most freaky sequence: With 8:02 left, Berry got called for a foul for (maybe) making contact with Karnowski and stripping the ball from the big man's hands. For the most part it was a sloppy game in which the two teams combined to miss 86 shots while shooting 34.8% from the field, with Gonzaga committing 14 turnovers while making only 11 assists. So I don't think either team ever got in a real good flow.
Moments later, Williams-Goss twisted his ankle and neither he nor anyone on his team would score again. "The second half, they shoot 27 percent and we shoot 35 for the game". The ball was thrown down the court to Justin Jackson who slammed it in and all but secured title number six.
"Everybody still had faith in me", he said. "And I was able to put my pain aside and just think about them first".