It's OK, Carolina, you can open your eyes. An unwatchable game turned into a beautiful night for the Tar Heels, who turned a free-throw contest into a championship they've been waiting an entire year to celebrate. Justin Jackson delivered the go-ahead three-point play with 1:40 left Monday and North Carolina pulled away for a 71-65 win over Gonzaga that washed away a year's worth of heartache, the AP reports. It was, in North Carolina's words, a redemption tour—filled with extra time on the practice court and the weight room, all fueled by a devastating loss in last year's title game on Kris Jenkins' three-point dagger at the buzzer for Villanova.
Joel Berry II, along with most of Roy Williams' players, returned for another run. "I wanted to see this confetti fall on us and we're the winners," says Berry, who led the Heels with 22 points. "It came down to the last second, but we're national champs now." Berry recovered from ankle injuries to lead the Tar Heels, but needed 19 shots for his 22 points. Jackson had 16 on a 6-for-19 night. But in free throws, the Tar Heels went 15 for 26 from the line and in many corners, this game will be remembered for the referees who called 27 fouls in the second half, completely busted up the flow of the game, and sent North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks, Gonzaga's 7-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, and a host of others to the bench in foul trouble.