UNC Archive

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Berry’s late FTs cap UNC’s game-winning run

Trailing 66-60, North Carolina held homestanding Notre Dame without a field goal for nearly six minutes. But it took a pair of free throws by Joel Berry with seconds left to lift the Tar Heels to a key 69-68 victory. (1/13) Playing without top scorers Bonzie Colson and Matt Ferrell, the Irish almost pulled it out at the end but a follow shot at the buzzer by T.J. Gibbs fell off the rim. “We did a decent job defensively the last five or six minutes,” said UNC coach Roy Williams who said he possibly felt the luckiest he’s ever felt. […]

Trailing 66-60, North Carolina held homestanding Notre Dame without a field goal for nearly six minutes. But it took a pair of free throws by Joel Berry with seconds left to lift the Tar Heels to a key 69-68 victory. (1/13)

Playing without top scorers Bonzie Colson and Matt Ferrell, the Irish almost pulled it out at the end but a follow shot at the buzzer by T.J. Gibbs fell off the rim.

“We did a decent job defensively the last five or six minutes,” said UNC coach Roy Williams who said he possibly felt the luckiest he’s ever felt. “At the end, we did a good job defensively on his original shot but we didn’t box him out and he got another shot.”

Notre Dame players and fans immediately seemed deflated and frustrated while Carolina just seemed relieved. Coach Williams said he felt ‘befuddled” and “dumbfounded” that his team came out with the win.

It played out like an ACC Tournament game as each possession seemed to mean a lot as there were 23 lead changes and nine ties during the game.

Despite Coach Williams’ frustration, his Tar Heels did come through in the clutch as they outscored the Irish 9-2 over the last 5:52.

Joel Berry started the run with a driving layup and freshman Garrison Brooks followed that play up with a basket as he cut through the lane for a short push shot to draw the Heels within a bucket at 66-64 with 5:12 left.

Neither team could score over the next two minutes but UNC’s Luke Maye got loose for an uncontested dunk on a set play to tie the score at 66 with 2:05 to go.

With 1:32 left, Maye hit one of two free throws – the first missing everything – to put Carolina back up 67-66.

The Tar Heels had a chance to extend the lead when Theo Pinson drew a charge on Gibbs with 1:05 left. But with the shot clock running down, Johnson missed badly from the baseline and Kenny Williams fouled out trying to get the rebound.

Gibbs subsequently hit both ends of a one-and-one to give the Irish the lead at 68-67 with just 37 seconds left.

Berry lost the handle on the ball and was tied up for a jump ball, possession Carolina, with 11 seconds left but only four seconds left on the shot clock. Berry inbounded the ball to Sterling Manley who had to take a wild, off-balanced shot that Berry caught and put up in one motion.

He hit the rim with the ball as he was fouled by Gibbs.

With seven seconds left, Berry calmly hit two free throws for the lead, which held up.

Maye led the Heels with 18 points, followed by Berry who scored 15. Pinson, who headlined a key 11-2 run midway through the second half with seven of those points, finished the game with 13 points.

Carolina improves to 14-4 overall and 3-2 in the ACC while Notre Dame falls to 13-5 and 3-2 in the conference.

For a box score and more game analysis, please click here.

Defense was key for North Carolina down the stretch. (UNC Sports Information Photo.)

Defense was key for North Carolina down the stretch. (UNC Sports Information Photo.)

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Coach Williams, if you’re going to put in the reserves, LET THEM PLAY

With about 15 seconds left against Boston College, and seldom-used Tar Heels on the floor, UNC Coach Roy Williams told his players to hold the ball and not shoot. I’ve said it before but this is probably my biggest pet peeve about Coach Williams. As a former “scrub” coming in to mob up myself in junior high, I would want a chance to score or get an assist or do something. It’s not really running up the score when you have guys out there who don’t play in every game and average maybe 30 seconds a game. Come on coach, […]

With about 15 seconds left against Boston College, and seldom-used Tar Heels on the floor, UNC Coach Roy Williams told his players to hold the ball and not shoot.

I’ve said it before but this is probably my biggest pet peeve about Coach Williams. As a former “scrub” coming in to mob up myself in junior high, I would want a chance to score or get an assist or do something.

It’s not really running up the score when you have guys out there who don’t play in every game and average maybe 30 seconds a game. Come on coach, let ’em play. It’s fun for the players and the fans, and stopping the fun is not going to endear you with opposing coaches. They know they aren’t your starters or even backups. Let ’em play!

These hard-working reserves need special memories of their own.

(Pictured above: Coach Roy Williams, after telling his seldom-used reserves to stand on the court until the game ends, shakes hands with BC coach Jim Christian before the game is over. It’s fine to show respect for opponents and taking out the regulars already does that. But show respect for your reserves too please. Let them play.)

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Carolina, Maye responds to blow out Boston College

After two straight ACC losses on the road, North Carolina took it out on Boston College 96-66 in Chapel Hill. (1/9) Luke Maye, who has been in a bit of a slump, broke out in a big way with career highs in points (32) and rebounds (18). “He’s worked so hard. He deserves this success,” UNC coach Roy Williams said adding that he was sensational. Coach Williams said Maye had felt a little pressure lately after a few sub-par games compared to how he started the season. “I told him you don’t have to be like anybody else. Just be […]

After two straight ACC losses on the road, North Carolina took it out on Boston College 96-66 in Chapel Hill. (1/9)

Luke Maye, who has been in a bit of a slump, broke out in a big way with career highs in points (32) and rebounds (18).

“He’s worked so hard. He deserves this success,” UNC coach Roy Williams said adding that he was sensational. Coach Williams said Maye had felt a little pressure lately after a few sub-par games compared to how he started the season. “I told him you don’t have to be like anybody else. Just be Luke.”

Some other words from Coach Williams also seemed to inspire Maye. “Coach told me before the game that I needed to be a player,” Maye said.

As a result, Maye became the first Tar Heel to score 30 points in a game at the Smith Center since Tyler Zeller did it in 2012.

While Coach Williams said none of the Tar Heels played with heart or a brain in the Virginia game, he told them not to panic but simply play with a high energy level. “Our focus was to play harder and smarter,” Coach Williams said. “We needed to bounce back and I think that was a good one.”

He was particularly pleased with the overwhelming 58-23 edge on the boards, including 23 offensive rebounds. After turning the ball over 19 times against Virginia, the Heels only turned it over eight times against Boston College, an improved team which was 11-5 with a victory over Duke coming into the game.

“Except for a couple of stretches, we played very, very well,” Coach Williams said.

Joining Maye in double figures were Cam Johnson, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds, Joel Berry, who had 13 points and Kenny Williams, who tallied 10 points. Theo Pinson had his usual balanced line with eight points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Big men Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley got less time on the court as the Tar Heels chose to go smaller. The smaller Maye, Johnson and Pinson crashed the boards and started several fast breaks as the Tar Heels outscored the Eagles 19-2 on fast break points.

Carolina, which travels to Notre Dame (13-3, 3-0) Saturday evening, improves to 13-4 and 2-2 in the ACC.

To see a box score and more analysis of the game, please click here.

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This Carolina rally falls short at Florida State

A hot-shooting Florida State team drained nine threes in the first half to work up a 13 point lead and managed to survive a North Carolina rally, 81-80 in Tallahassee. (1/3) The Tar Heels, trailing 51-40 at the half, went on a 16-3 run to take their first lead since it was 5-4. A Sterling Manley follow with 12:12 to go put the Heels up 60-59. The score went back and forth for the next four minutes. But after UNC’s Andrew Platek drove the baseline to tie it at 67-67, Carolina never tied or led again. A 9-0 Seminole run […]

A hot-shooting Florida State team drained nine threes in the first half to work up a 13 point lead and managed to survive a North Carolina rally, 81-80 in Tallahassee. (1/3)

The Tar Heels, trailing 51-40 at the half, went on a 16-3 run to take their first lead since it was 5-4. A Sterling Manley follow with 12:12 to go put the Heels up 60-59.

The score went back and forth for the next four minutes. But after UNC’s Andrew Platek drove the baseline to tie it at 67-67, Carolina never tied or led again. A 9-0 Seminole run in less than two minutes put Florida State up 76-67. Two old-fashioned three-point plays and an open three did the damage.

Joel Berry, who scored a game-high 28 points, nearly brought the Heels back by himself. After swishing a three with 2:49 left, Berry drove the lane for two more with 1:36 left to pull Carolina within a basket at 79-77.

After a pair of FSU free throws and a missed Berry shot, the Seminoles killed some clock before UNC’s Theo Pinson stole a long pass and got it to Berry, who hit another three to get the Heels within a point at 81-80 with 30 seconds left.

After FSU’s Phil Cofer missed a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left, Carolina got the ball back with a chance to win the game. However, with time running down, Berry couldn’t hit a driving runner and the Seminoles held on.

“That was two teams fighting pretty doggone hard,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “In the first half, we couldn’t do anything with the three-point shooters.”

That improved in the second half but then FSU attacked the basket better than Carolina, Coach Williams said. He said even though the Tar Heels had the lead and the ball twice in the second half, they ultimately couldn’t dig out of the big hold in the first half, when Florida State got up by as many as 13 points.

A three by Braian Angola put the Seminoles up 31-18 midway through the first half. From that point on, Carolina was scrambling to get back in it. Even though the Heels caught up eight minutes into the second half, that 9-0 second half run turned out to be more than Carolina could overcome.

Joining Berry in double figures were Kenny Williams, who scored 18, and Luke Maye, who put in 14.

Carolina falls to 12-3 overall and 1-1 in the ACC and travels to No. 8 Virginia Saturday afternoon, Jan. 6.

For a box score and more on the game, please click here.

UNC's Kenny Williams hit four threes but it wasn't enough. (UNC Sports Information Photo by J.D. Lyon Jr.)
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Carolina brings in graduate transfers as offensive reinforcements

With much of its offense moving on to the NFL, North Carolina has brought in reinforcements in the form of four graduate transfers. The offensive line, including the tight ends, was already the strongest part of the offense coming into 2017. But now they’ve added Cam Dillard, who played at Florida and projects as the starting center. Also, Khaliel Rodgers, who started nine games during his injury-plagued career at Southern Cal, is competing for time at the guard position. “They’re both really good guys off the field and we’re happy to have them,” said senior tackle Bentley Spain, who added […]

With much of its offense moving on to the NFL, North Carolina has brought in reinforcements in the form of four graduate transfers.

The offensive line, including the tight ends, was already the strongest part of the offense coming into 2017. But now they’ve added Cam Dillard, who played at Florida and projects as the starting center. Also, Khaliel Rodgers, who started nine games during his injury-plagued career at Southern Cal, is competing for time at the guard position.

“They’re both really good guys off the field and we’re happy to have them,” said senior tackle Bentley Spain, who added that the offensive linemen have already been bonding through non-football related activities including a pool party.

“The good thing about our o-line is that we’re not the kind of guys who are flashy and want glam,” he said. “At the end of the day if you win the job, you win the job, if you don’t, you don’t. You can’t be angry at someone personally who got something that you didn’t.”

Some players may also share time at positions, like tight ends Brandon Fritts, a junior, and Carl Tucker, a sophomore. Both did well last season and are likely to play bigger roles in the offense.

The third graduate transfer, Stanton Truitt from Auburn, could see a lot of time at running back depending on the progress of sophomore Jordon Brown, the only returning runner, who had only 20 carries a year ago and the development of freshman Michael Carter, who was the 2016 USA Florida Offensive Player of the Year in high school.

Truitt ran for 215 yards and scored three times for Auburn in two seasons there.

Fedora said all the backs are good runners but playing time will come down to how quickly they learn the protections, the blocking schemes.

The fourth offensive graduate transfer has gotten the most attention but he’s been in the fold for the shortest amount of time. In hopes of replacing Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, Brandon Harris transferred from LSU, where he had lost his starting job.

Harris started every game as a sophomore and played in 25 games during his career with LSU. He lost his starting job last season in Week 2. After graduating this summer, he is eligible to play immediately at Carolina as a graduate transfer.

“We wanted someone with experience because we don’t have any quarterbacks with experience,” Fedora said. “Whether he’s just in the room or on the practice field or actually playing, we needed some experience.”

Nathan Elliott is the only returner who has experience on the college level as the lefty completed eight of nine passes for 55 yards a season ago. Coming out of spring practice, he probably had the lead over redshirt freshmen Logan Byrd and Chazz Surratt.

Elliott throws well and makes good decisions, Fedora said, but while he can run the ball, he’s not fast.

Surratt, on the other hand, is fast and a tremendous athlete with a strong arm, Federa said, and he has a chance to be really good – the implication being that he’s not there yet.

Byrd is big and strong with a good arm and he can run as well but he is still learning the offense.

So, will Harris start? Well, they wanted him to come. They wanted him when he was in high school. He can run and he has played in big games. While he has a strong arm, he isn’t known as an accurate passer. So, again, will he start? “It really depends on how quickly he can learn everything and how he integrates into our football team.”

Of course that goes for all the QB candidates, Fedora said, adding that fitting into the chemistry of the team will be crucial for whomever is named the starter.

“I know were not ready to name a starter now and I’m not going to,” Fedora said rebuffing media attempts to tip his hand.

He noted that last year at this time, people were asking about a new starting quarterback by the name of Mitch Trubisky. “He wound up being the second pick in the draft,” Fedora said. “It can happen. What can’t it be us?”

Fedora said that the jury is still out on how picking up graduate transfers is going to work out, saying he’s never tried it before.

“I believe chemistry is so important to a football team,” he said. “How quickly can you get these guys integrated into your team? If it’s something we have success with, it’s something we’ll continue to do.”

However, schools don’t really recruit graduate transfers as the prospective players reach out to the schools.

“More and more guys are doing it for whatever reason,” Fedora said. “They’re looking to see the best fit for them.”

He said that players around the country are showing interest in transferring to Carolina after seeing the success the team has had and the success the coaching staff has had in developing players into NFL draft picks.

For UNC football, some of them are starting to go to the NFL early, opening the door to transfers.

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UNC’s Fedora gets his wish; Heels picked low in ACC preseason poll

UNC coach Larry Fedora got his wish as the media chose his team well down the ladder in the ACC Coastal, which is expected to be a wide-open division. The Tar Heels have lost their starting quarterback and running back who left early for the NFL as well as high-powered receivers who graduated. “They say that 90-something percent of the offensive production is gone,” Fedora said. “The more you guys talk about the guys who left, the better it is for us, It’s motivation for our guys to prove they are good football players.” He “urged” the media to keep […]

UNC coach Larry Fedora got his wish as the media chose his team well down the ladder in the ACC Coastal, which is expected to be a wide-open division.

The Tar Heels have lost their starting quarterback and running back who left early for the NFL as well as high-powered receivers who graduated.

“They say that 90-something percent of the offensive production is gone,” Fedora said. “The more you guys talk about the guys who left, the better it is for us, It’s motivation for our guys to prove they are good football players.”

UNC coach Larry Fedora.

UNC coach Larry Fedora.

He “urged” the media to keep talking about how the Tar Heels aren’t expected to do much this season. “Pick us low,” he said. “I would much rather prefer that. That would be a good thing for our program.”

The media who attended last week’s ACC Kickoff event in Charlotte did just that. In the preseason poll released Monday, the media chose North Carolina fifth in the seven-team Coastal Division.

Evidently, though, there were four members of the media who didn’t want to help Fedora’s motivation game as they picked the Tar Heels to win the Coastal Division.

Fedora admits to using the low expectations as motivation. “Sure, why not?,” he said adding that he really doesn’t have to do much. “Y’all (the media) are doing it for me so I appreciate that. Makes my job a little bit easier.”

Senior offensive tackle Bentley Spain said he’s not worried about any drop off from last year. “(The low expectation) motivates guys to try harder and prove people wrong,” he said. “We can’t control what people say about us so we’re just going to be the best we can every day.”

He said there are a number of young guys who are going to step up and shock people. “Even though they aren’t household names, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to be good players,” Spain said. “We just had a lot of really good talent they were behind last year. They’ll break out and it’s going to be just as good as last year.”

ACC Championship Votes
Florida State – 118
Clemson – 35
Louisville – 7
Virginia Tech – 3
Miami – 3
Duke – 1

Atlantic Division
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Florida State (121) – 1,108
Clemson (37) – 1,007
Louisville (9) – 843
NC State – 658
Wake Forest – 415
Syracuse – 362
Boston College – 283

Coastal Division
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Miami (103) – 1,065
Virginia Tech (40) – 932
Georgia Tech (9) – 708
Pitt (7) – 673
North Carolina (4) – 606
Duke (4) -473
Virginia -219

ACC Player of the Year
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville – 113
Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State – 23
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson – 11
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College – 8
Jaylen Samuels, AP, NC State – 7
Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse – 2
Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami – 1
Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami – 1
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke -1

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Swofford takes a victory lap after perhaps ACC’s best season ever

Despite off the field concerns hovering over some Atlantic Coast Conference schools, ACC Commissioner John Swofford took a victory lap of sorts in addressing the media at the ACC Football Kickoff event in Charlotte. And why not? ACC teams won the NCAA football and basketball championships. The Heisman Trophy winner and runner-up came from the ACC. And generally, the ACC did extremely well against non-conference foes in most all sports. In addition, the league’s graduation rate for the last school year was 89.3 percent, which is five points ahead of the national average and ahead of the other four major […]

Despite off the field concerns hovering over some Atlantic Coast Conference schools, ACC Commissioner John Swofford took a victory lap of sorts in addressing the media at the ACC Football Kickoff event in Charlotte.

And why not? ACC teams won the NCAA football and basketball championships. The Heisman Trophy winner and runner-up came from the ACC. And generally, the ACC did extremely well against non-conference foes in most all sports.

In addition, the league’s graduation rate for the last school year was 89.3 percent, which is five points ahead of the national average and ahead of the other four major conferences.

“It was certainly one of the league’s most successful years and quite possibly its most successful year,” Swofford said.

Specific to football, Swofford said ACC teams arguably played the toughest non-conference schedule in the country. Around 2010, Swofford said the league made a move “to step up to the plate” and play tougher schedules.

But he said you can’t live in the past in college athletics.

This coming season, ACC teams will play a combined 115 games against teams that went to bowl games in 2016.

“The conference is deeper than it’s ever been,” Swofford said. “There are more good teams and it’s tougher to win an ACC football title than it’s ever been.”

Swofford pointed out that Clemson’s two toughest games en route to the NCAA title game last season came at home against ACC foes N.C. State and Pitt. He said that certainly “tells you something about what the ACC is today.”

With plans in the works with ESPN for the ACC Network, set to start in two years, and with all the changes in league membership over recent years, Swofford said it’s time to “take a deep breath” rather than take on additional big goals.

“You need to make sure you’re not veering away from what your mission is and what your value system is,” he said. “You have to make sure you continue to be who you are and who you want to be.”

He did say the league needs to continue to develop a culture of trust with various partners, including the other major NCAA conferences.

He said he’d like to see new rivalries develop but that those things happen over time. That might be particularly important because the growth of the league has made it so that old rivals N.C. State and Duke, for instance, are only scheduled to play once every six seasons.

Swofford said there is no easy solution to that problem as the schools have to look at what’s best for the league as a whole and the majority of the schools have voted on the current alignment and scheduling.

While he said the league will continue to look at the issue, he doesn’t anticipate any changes in the near future.

He said the league has plenty of time to bond with each other and TV partners, and continue to work together to make things better as agreements keep them all together through the 2035-36 season.

If Notre Dame, an ACC member in every sport except football, ever decides to join a league in football, by contract, it has to be the ACC, at least through that 2035-36 season.

Upon questioning, Swofford only touched briefly on sensitive topics like the Louisville sex scandal, the UNC academic saga and the controversy surrounding HB2.

He said when there are controversies at a school, the other schools sit down and talk to the school about what happened and what they are doing to correct it. “Usually it’s a few people who make bad decisions, not a whole institution,” he said.

Swofford defended the ACC’s decision to return to North Carolina for the ACC championship game and events such as this week’s ACC Kickoff by saying that the repeal of HB2 “took us back to where the state was before HB2… It’s as simple as that.”

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Kennedy Meeks drains threes in style in ACC barnstorming tour

During a three-point shooting contest at the first game of the 39th annual ACC Barnstorming tour (of seniors), UNC’s Kennedy Meeks got to show a little of his inner shooting guard. Not only did he loft several during the game, he made it to the finals of the three-point shooting contest. See the YouTube video to see the barrage. In the second round, he faltered however, and Holly Springs’ High School Senior Jake Kelsey won the contest, making all 10 of his shots. The ACC All-Stars, coached by Phil Ford, were actually led by another coach who suited up – […]


During a three-point shooting contest at the first game of the 39th annual ACC Barnstorming tour (of seniors), UNC’s Kennedy Meeks got to show a little of his inner shooting guard. Not only did he loft several during the game, he made it to the finals of the three-point shooting contest. See the YouTube video to see the barrage.

In the second round, he faltered however, and Holly Springs’ High School Senior Jake Kelsey won the contest, making all 10 of his shots.

The ACC All-Stars, coached by Phil Ford, were actually led by another coach who suited up – Duke assistant Nolan Smith, who drained nine threes during the 146-127 victory over the Wake County High School basketball All-Stars.

The MVP of the game – chosen from among the high school players – was Trey Terry of Fuquay-Varina High School.

Those taking part from the ACC included Nate Britt and Kanler Coker from North Carolina, Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson from Duke, Chris Brickhouse and BeeJay Anya (who didn’t play) from N.C. State, and Austin Arians and Trent VanHorn from Wake Forest, among others.

It was predictably a non-serious, fun exhibition with a bunch of three-point shooting and little defense. The high school team actually got an early lead but Britt hit three three-pointers to give the ACC All-Stars a lead they would never relinquish – although the high schoolers cut the margin to under double-digits late before the ACC pulled away.

While Meeks, fresh off the NCAA title game, seemed to be the biggest draw – and had the longest line for autographs after the game – Jefferson was a hit during the game. The Duke senior came off as auditioning for the Harlem Globetrotters, once even holding the ball between his legs – a la Meadowlark Lemon – as he faked out the opponents by pretending to shoot with nothing in his hands.

The eight-city tour continues through April 22. The line-ups may vary. For instance, UNC players Isaiah Hicks and Stilman White were not at this game but are expected to participate.

For more information on the barnstorming tour, please click here.

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CHAMPS: Heels get redemption in slugfest

FJQFXGCNNXRTSBQ.20170404055818A year after getting a kick in the gut in the final second of the NCAA Tournament title game, North Carolina got redemption with a tough slugfest victory over Gonzaga to give the Tar Heels their sixth national championship, 71-65.

As has been the trend this season, the Tar Heels found a way to win and was able to close out the game.

Down 65-63 with less than two minutes to play, Carolina indeed closed out the game with an 8-0 run.

Justin Jackson, who had missed all nine of his three-point attempts, came up with an old-fashioned three-point play inside with 1:40 left to give the Tar Heels a 66-65 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss, who had scored 15 points, missed a jumper. Theo Pinson got the rebound for Carolina. The Tar Heels burned clock but couldn’t score. Kennedy Meeks was able to get a tie up, giving the possession back to the Heels with 49 seconds left.

The Heels burned the clock and Isaiah Hicks drove the lane to bang one in at the end of the shot clock, giving Carolina a 68-65 advantage.

Williams-Goss drove in the lane but Meeks came up with a block. Joel Berry recovered the ball and threw ahead to Jackson for a dunk to all but wrap it up at 70-65 with seconds remaining.

Meeks stole a desperation pass and Berry was fouled. After a timeout to re-gain his composure, he hit one of two free throws before the celebration began.

“Forget my shooting – we’re national champions!,” said Jackson, who did manage to score 16 points.

But it was Berry, still not 100 percent after two turned ankles, who led way with 22 points on his way to the Most Outstanding Player award of the Final Four.

“It’s been a hard road,” Berry said. “Now we can forget about last year.”

Senior Nate Britt said the team talked about this day and this feeling for quite some time. “We set a goal and we achieved our dream to get back and make it happen,” he said.

UNC coach Roy Williams said there is no better feeling for a coach than to see his “kids jump around” after a national championship win. Still, he said it didn’t take away the pain of last year because Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James didn’t get to experience the feeling.

It was a frustrating feeling for much of the game as the officials called 44 fouls, including 11 in the first four-plus minutes of the second half. Neither team could get any flow on the offense.

As poorly as Carolina shot, less than 36 percent, the Heels held Gonzaga to 34 percent shooting. It was the first time this year that a team shot better than Gonzaga, which finishes the season 37-2.

“Neither team played very well but both teams played really hard,” Coach Williams said. He did praise his team’s second half defense after giving the Zags too many open threes in the first half when Gonzaga took at 35-32 lead at the break.

He admittedly blessed his team out at the half and reminded them that the Heels led by five at the half in last year’s finals and Villanova came out hungrier and wound up winning.

This year, Carolina scored the first eight points of the second half, highlighted by four points and an assist by Berry.

But Gonzaga came back to take a 43-40 lead, and the lead went back and forth setting up a hectic and emotional last few minutes. There were 12 lead changes and 11 ties during the game.

With Carolina holding a 59-57 lead and less than five minutes remaining, the Tar Heels seemingly got the ball back with a lead. But officials, incorrectly, ruled that a Williams-Goss three-point shot went off Pinson’s hand out of bounds. After giving the ball back to Gonzaga, Williams-Goss knocked in a three, giving the Zags a 60-59 lead with 4:30 left.

Seconds later, Berry drained a three to give the lead back to Carolina at 62-60.

Another Williams-Goss bucket put Gonzaga up 65-63 with 1:50 left, setting up Carolina’s 8-0 run that gave the Heels the title.

“Isaiah knocked in a big shot and Kennedy got a big block,” said Berry, who said he almost started to cry after he threw it to Jackson for the game-clinching dunk.

Hicks, who scored 13, said that the feeling was 180 degrees different from last year. “What we worked for was finally here. It’s surreal,” he said.

Carolina finishes the season of redemption at 33-7. There will be a celebration at the Smith Center at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

For more on the game – including a box score, video highlights and additional commentary – please click here.

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UNC finds a (new) way to get to title game

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said it’s amazing to get to national championship for a second straight year and the Tar Heels found a new way to get there – by missing free throws. “Relieved, lucky, fortunate but we’re still playing,” Coach Williams said. With a one-point lead, the Tar Heels missed four free throws in the last six seconds but twice were able to get the ball back to run out the time and defeat Oregon 77-76 to advance to Monday night’s title game against Gonzaga. After a hobbled Joel Berry hit a three from the right wing to […]

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said it’s amazing to get to national championship for a second straight year and the Tar Heels found a new way to get there – by missing free throws.

“Relieved, lucky, fortunate but we’re still playing,” Coach Williams said.

With a one-point lead, the Tar Heels missed four free throws in the last six seconds but twice were able to get the ball back to run out the time and defeat Oregon 77-76 to advance to Monday night’s title game against Gonzaga.

After a hobbled Joel Berry hit a three from the right wing to put the Heels up 71-62 with 5:50 left, Carolina didn’t score a field goal the rest of the way.

The Heels hit six of eight free throws to go up 77-71 with less than a minute to go.

But Oregon’s Dorsey hit a big three that banged on the iron four times before falling in with 42 seconds left to make it a one-possession game at 77-74.

Carolina ran the clock down before Theo Pinson missed a shot with time running down. Oregon rushed it up and scored a bucket to make it 77-76 with six seconds to go.

On the inbounds, Kennedy Meeks, who had been the hero of the game for the Heels, was fouled and went to the line for two free throws. He missed them both but Pinson was able to knife in to knock the ball out to Berry, who was fouled with four seconds left.

And, Berry, who hits 81 percent of his foul shots, missed both of them. This time Meeks reached in and grabbed the rebound, throwing it out to Pinson who dribbled out the clock.

Meeks scored a season-high 25 points and hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds to lead the Heels. With Berry hitting only two of 14 shots and with fellow big man Isaiah Hicks having perhaps his worst game of the season by scoring a mere one of 12, Coach Williams said Carolina “needed Kennedy to score more today.”

He not only scored a lot of points, he scored a lot of big points. Carolina trailed 30-22 in the first half – the Heels largest deficit of the game and in the NCAA Tournament – before going on a 17-6 run.

During the run, Meeks got open inside and Nate Britt found him for a bucket that gave the Tar Heels a 37-36 lead. Carolina never trailed again.

Up 39-36 at the half, the Heels extended the margin to eight after Justin Jackson hit a three in transition three minutes into the second half to make it 46-38.

Free throws by Jackson after a steal gave Carolina a nine-point lead at 56-47 with under 13 minutes to go.

A Meeks bucket inside, on a dish from Pinson, gave the Heels their largest lead of the game at 66-56 with 8:30 to go. It never got down to a one-possession game until the hectic last minute.

Other than the tp out and rebound in the closing seconds, Coach Williams pointed to Meeks and Jackson making the difference. “Kennedy contributed everything inside and Justin made three big threes in the second half,” he said. Jackson finished with 22 points.

Coach Williams was also happy with Carolina’s defense, particularly in the second half, but he noted that Oregon didn’t shoot as well as the Ducks normally do plus the Heels fouled to send Oregon to the line. As a result, the Ducks hit 15 of 16 free throws down the stretch to stay in it, making it ironic that Carolina’s missed free throws may have actually helped the Heels.

The Tar Heels practice offensive rebounding on missed free throws and tip-out drills every day, Coach Williams said.

In order to beat Gonzaga Monday night, he knows the Tar Heels need to play better though rather than relying on new ways to win.

“Joel didn’t play very well but he got through the game without hurting his ankle,” Coach Williams said. “I’m hoping he plays better Monday night.”

Carolina, now 32-7, plays Gonzaga for the national championship Monday starting at 9:20 p.m.

For more on the game, including a box score, please click here.