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North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks holds the championship trophy as he celebrates with his teammates after the finals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Gonzaga, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ari.

The Tar Heels have erased the memory of last year's buzzer-beating loss to Villanova in the NCAA title game by topping Gonzaga, 71-65 to win this year's national championship.

Gonzaga (37-2) missed nine consecutive shots in the second half and went 8:27 without a basket, but North Carolina (33-7) didn't have the offense to deliver a decisive run as it remained a one-possession game for nearly all of the second half.

Meeks' game against Gonzaga was not almost as huge as his 25-point, 14-rebound effort against OR in a national semifinal Saturday, but he still finished the Final Four with 32 points and 24 rebounds in two games. The two local players on the Gonzaga roster performed well as Williams-Goss, the former Findlay Prep star, had 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes. Josh Perkins added 13 points.

After escaping the cusp of defeat three times this tournament, North Carolina (33-7) stared down a seven-point hole late in the first half. Meeks received some support on social media for the Most Outstanding Player award that ultimately went to Joel Berry.

Coach Roy Williams had at least raised the possibility of whether Berry would be ready to play early in the week, though it seemed unlikely that the guy who might be the Tar Heels' toughest competitor wouldn't give it a go.

Gonzaga coughed up two turnovers and missed their first five shots before coach Mark Few called a timeout with his team trailing 40-35.

While the performance was far from their best, the Tar Heels simply did enough to erase some demons they carried with them over the past 365 days.

"The feeling of inadequacy in the locker room previous year is the worst feeling I've ever had", Williams said.

"I'm so happy for you and the team", the text read.

That's the second-worst accuracy by a winning team in the last 50 NCAA finals -Connecticut shot 34.5 percent against Butler in 2011. "Then he missed the last two regular season games in the second championship season and was really on only one leg going through the entire tournament his senior year".

When North Carolina's slugfest with Gonzaga came to an end Monday night, the Tar Heels had all their answers: The national title was theirs, the nets were hanging around their necks, their redemption tour was a success.

North Carolina still couldn't deliver a decisive run, and it was a one-possession game for much of the second half, when foul trouble dogged both teams. On every level, in every way, it was an atrocious basketball game. They could declare for the draft, or they could remain with North Carolina.

Williams got his third national championship.

Williams said he wasn't even sure that his team would be invited.


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