Published: Wed, April 19, 2017
Sport | By Desiree Waters

Ratings boost: NCAA title game viewership up 30 percent

Ratings boost: NCAA title game viewership up 30 percent

It was an ugly affair, filled with 44 fouls and 52 free throws but, ultimately, the contest with the result the Tar Heels (33-7) simply had to have.

An unwatchable game turned into a attractive night for the Tar Heels, who turned a free-throw contest into a championship they've been waiting an entire year to celebrate.

Their 71-65 win will not be mistaken for a work of art.

McGrath replaces Kevin Keatts, who led the Seahawks to two straight Colonial Athletic Association Tournament titles and NCAA Tournament berths before he was hired last month at North Carolina State.

"I wanted to see this confetti fall on us and we're the winners", said Carolina's Joel Berry II, who led the Heels with 22 points. The ups and downs that we've had, it's all worth it.

"So nobody made me aware of it or I certainly would have within the last minute there or 2 minutes", he said.

(AP Photo/Matt York). North Carolina's Theo Pinson (1) celebrates as Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski (24) walks off after the finals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.

The Tar Heels turned the extra possession into an inside hoop from Isaiah Hicks that made it 68-65 with 26 seconds left. Even as other basketball programs around the country try and follow Gonzaga's lead in recruiting worldwide big men like Przemek Karnowski, Few's appearance in the biggest college game of the year should put Spokane at the top of the destination list for talented players the world over.

Senior Kennedy Meeks, the star of the Tar Heels' Final Four matchup against OR (25 pts, 14 reb, 3 stl), did not dominate on offense the way he did in the previous round, but he completely shut down Bulldogs senior center Przemek Karnowski, the winningest player in college basketball history.

Referee Mike Eades called a held ball and North Carolina retained possession, and then used that possession to score the biggest basket of the game.

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The official was right there standing over the play.

But there was no protest, no review. "From my angle, it didn't look like an out of bounds situation or I would have called a review". "So that's tough. It's tough to hear".

Neither Few nor Williams threw much blame toward the officials, but the refs made this game virtually unwatchable.

They called 27 fouls in the second half and put both teams in the bonus with 13-plus minutes left. They brought steady cascades of boos from the crowd of 76,168, as fans from each side took turns protesting the whistles.

"It's a very hard game to call", said Williams, who has now led the Tar Heels to three of the program's six titles. "I can't even describe my feeling right now, but I'm just glad that I was able to do something with this team because I felt like, just the personality and what we went through, and I think we just deserved it". And I think to be so close for us is a temporarily crushing blow right now.

North Carolina shot 34 percent from the field in the foul-riddled championship game, Gonzaga 36 percent.

Berry recovered from ankle injuries to lead the Tar Heels, but needed 19 shots for his 22 points. He shot 39 percent from 3-point range, including the game-winning shot against West Virginia that lifted the Zags into the Final Four.

Gonzaga might not attract future National Basketball Association lottery picks, but Mark Few's brand extends beyond the United States, attracting global players and transfers like Nigel Williams-Goss to Spokane.

Williams-Goss, a junior who was a second team All-American, led the Zags at 16.9 points per game and added 5.9 rebounds and more than 4 assists.

Few, both a coaching and card-playing buddy of Williams, might be tempted to give Ol' Roy a call and ask him how he did it.

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