It’s what this North Carolina men’s basketball team has preached all season long, in interviews with the public and text messages to one another: Get back to Monday night. Only this time, don’t leave empty-handed.
And with a 71-65 win over Gonzaga in University of Phoenix Stadium — despite a bevy of fouls and one of the team’s worst shooting performances of the season — now they won’t.
Now they’ll leave Arizona as national champions.
“It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before,” Justin Jackson said. “We did it. We won.”
As for that unofficial motto or slogan or whatever you want to call it — redemption — it was still on these players’ minds before Monday night’s game. Heck, they were talking about it the night before the game, too, when Brandon Robinson and a handful of others stumbled out of their hotel for a late-night ice cream break.
“Last night, we were just talking all about, ‘This could last for a lifetime,’” Robinson said. “We can talk about this for the rest of our lives.”
That conversation carried over to Monday night, after the sun crept through several sets of blinds, beckoning the morning and the day and all that would come with it — beckoning a national championship win, as it so happened.
So the players awoke — some clapping in their rooms, others warily just to close the blinds — and stumbled down to their breakfast and subsequent shootaround. There it was loose, carefree. Theo Pinson played DJ on his iPhone, queuing up a playlist of Young Thug and Drake and a whole host of other hip-hop artists. Then he danced, ceremoniously and as he has all season, until he and roommate Joel Berry retired to their room for a pregame nap.