Justin Jackson delivered the go-ahead three-point play and North Carolina scored the last eight points for a 71-65 win over Gonzaga and a title that heartbreakingly eluded the Tar Heels past year.
With about 30 seconds left and North Carolina clinging to a one-point lead, Kennedy Meeks and Silas Melson were scuffling for the ball under the basket when Meeks' right hand slid over the baseline.
UNC were led by Final Four Most Outstanding Player Joel Berry with 22 points despite shooting 7 for 19 from the field.
After Meeks was the first player with 25 points and 10 rebounds in a Final Four game since Greg Oden (2007) in UNC's matchup against Oregon, Meeks scored a subpar 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field, but pulled down 10 rebounds to set a new single-tournament record on the glass with 69 over the course of six games. Jackson had 16 points but went 0 for 9 from 3-point range.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams is interviewed as his team celebrate after the finals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Gonzaga, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. His rejection of a shot by a driving Nigel Williams-Goss led to a decisive fastbreak dunk by Justin Jackson with 12 seconds left. But UNC's bigs - particularly Isaiah Hicks, who followed a rough performance in the national semifinal with 13 points vs. the Zags - badly outplayed Gonzaga's, powering a 40-18 scoring edge in the paint and an 18-percentage point edge on two-pointers.
North Carolina took 73 shots over the course of the game.
Hicks' hanging runner won't ever be remembered like the shot Jenkins hit over him in Houston last year, and it probably won't get much air time after the initial game recaps and highlight reels this year. "We came out here and we competed". He missed his next shot and had the following one blocked by Meeks with:17 to play. On Monday night, North Carolina did what it had to do to beat Gonzaga - just like it did all tournament long, against a hard slate of opponents that included teams who eventually ranked Nos.
The Tar Heels regrouped, refocused and outplayed Gonzaga over the final 20 minutes to prevent any deja vu.
Williams mentioned his 2005 championship team didn't go to the White House because they weren't invited until September. He is 503-113 as coach of the Zags since 2000 and has never missed an NCAA Tournament.
Sartarelli says McGrath "has been an integral part of North Carolina's winning tradition".
On Gonzaga's next possession, he forced a turnover by Gonzaga's senior center Przemek Karnowski, stealing the ball away for his second steal of the night.
"But the games are going to be played".
Gonzaga's strength - its enormity in the post - became problematic early in the second half as well, with all three of its bigs finding themselves in serious foul trouble, though some played through it. "We were so close previous year and now being able to experience this is something we could never ever dreamed of". Both teams deserved their spot, both teams bringing the best of their game all year long resulting in quite an impressive record in the process.
"I don't think either team played exceptionally well offensively, " Williams said.