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North Carolina defeats Gonzaga for redemption in national championship

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USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken explains how the Tar Heels clawed their way to the national championship by edging Gonzaga.
USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Seldom in life do we get what we actually desperately want.

For a year now — almost exactly to the day — all these North Carolina players wanted was a chance to redeem themselves, an opportunity to erase the heartbreak from last April’s national championship game loss. They wanted this: A title of their own.

And, somehow, they got just that, beating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Monday night’s national championship game here at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

BOX SCORE North Carolina 71, Gonzaga 65

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The Tar Heels became just the fourth team to come back from losing the national championship the year before to go on and win it the following year.

It is the third national championship for North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who has won all three with the Tar Heels and since 2005. It also gives him one more than his mentor, the late Dean Smith.

And this one didn’t come easy.

North Carolina’s big men came up in the clutch. With Gonzaga trailing by three and looking to tie, Kennedy Meeks blocked a determined Nigel Williams-Goss and the play led to a breakaway and game-securing dunk.

And Isaiah Hicks, who struggled to find an offensive rhythm in previous tournament games, came up with a huge bucket…

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