NORTH CAROLINA WINS! 3 takeaways from a nail-biting victory over Gonzaga

Posted at 10:14 PM, Apr 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-04 10:27:12-04

One year after losing the national championship game on a buzzer-beater, the North Carolina Tar Heels found redemption in the desert, holding off a Gonzaga team that gave them everything they could handle. 

UNC earned its sixth-ever men's basketball championship Monday night with a 71-65 win over Gonzaga, the sentimental favorites who were looking for their first-ever national title.  

North Carolina's two victories in the Final Four came by a combined seven points, the smallest margin for a championship team since Michigan in 1989.  

SEE ALSO: Photos from the 2017 NCAA men's basketball national championship game

Here are three takeaways from another thriller at University of Phoenix Stadium.

1. Let's get this out of the way...

The officiating in Monday's game, especially in the second half, was awful. The refs called way too many fouls and thereby made the game about themselves instead of the players.

But at least the officiating was equally bad on both sides for most of the game, with the exception of this call in the game's final minute when North Carolina led by a single point.  

Officials called a jump ball on this play, and the possession arrow favored Carolina. But upon further review, UNC forward Kennedy Meeks' hand was obviously out of bounds. Gonzaga should have had the ball with a chance to take the lead.  

It's not fair to say Gonzaga would have won had the call gone the other way, but the Zags were certainly cheated out of a chance to tie or win late in the game, and that's unfortunate.  

Also, there was this ridiculous call against Gonzaga big man Zach Collins. It was his fifth foul of the game, and it came with five minutes to play.

2. Second-chance points the difference

On Monday, North Carolina was out-rebounded for just the fourth time all season. But unlike those first three games, the Tar Heels managed to get the victory anyway.

Why? Because they made good on their second-chance opportunities. UNC beat Gonzaga 15-12 on the offensive glass, leading to a 20-14 edge in second-chance points. That margin also happened to be the difference in the game.

Meeks led the way with 10 rebounds for North Carolina, but Theo Pinson and Isaiah Hicks also contributed nine boards. It was the reason UNC was able to overcome atrocious shooting, including a 4-of-27 mark from 3-point range.

3. Karnowski can't make a shot

Throughout the season, Gonzaga relied on 7-foot, 300-pounder Przemek Karnowski to score points in the paint. But the senior from Poland was ineffective for most of the game; he missed seven of his eight field-goal attempts and seemed passive around the basket, and his foul trouble limited his minutes in the second half.

If Karnowski had made a couple more of his attempts around the hoop, the Zags could be national champions right now. Instead, Gonzaga will have a season to wonder what might have been, just as North Carolina did after losing last season's championship game.