Fouls, misses make for ugly NCAA title game for UNC, Zags

North Carolina forward Tony Bradley (5) drives past Gonzaga forward Zach Collins (32) during the second half in the finals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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.

“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.

Meeks did come up with the biggest play by a big man 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.”

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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