Gonzaga came up just short against North Carolina in the national title game. Distraught Bulldogs fans could be forgiven for assigning some of the blame to the officiating crew. A whistle-happy second half featured at least three tough-to-swallow calls against Mark Few’s team.
There was Zach Collins’ ticky-tack offensive foul, his fourth, with almost 16 minutes remaining. The fantastic freshman would later foul out. There was Przemek Karnowski’s flagrant-1, which he earned by just being larger than Joel Barry. And, of course, there was Kennedy Meeks’ invisible hand trick in the game’s final minute.
Few, however, didn’t criticize the officials. He went all the way to the other end of the spectrum and praised them postgame.
People mock when class is pointed out, but I’ll do it anyway. Few was classy in defeat, even when emotions were raw. It was not only an impressive response. It was the constructive and responsible one.
It was very difficult to enjoy the second half of last night’s game. But it’s also hard to argue that the whistles didn’t even out. Both teams ended with 22 total fouls. Gonzaga also benefitted from a blown call when they were awarded possession after an airball late in the game.
The Bulldogs had ample opportunities. North Carolina shot just 4-for-27 from three-point range. All-American Justin Jackson went 6-for-19 from the field, including 0-for-9 beyond the arc. The Tar Heels continued to struggle from the free-throw line, going 15-for-26.
Few’s team did not lose because of the refs. They lost because they couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities. Nigel Williams-Goss and Karnowski combined to go 6-for-25 from the field. Karnowski and Collins combined for eight turnovers, double the number forced on the defensive end.
The sting of falling just shy of title dreams will sting for a long time. In the immediate aftermath, it’d be easy to blame the overly involved officials. But as time passes it will be the self-inflicted wounds that sting the most. Few, a veteran, understands this. It’s why he was so gracious and calm.