Gonzaga’s best season ends in worst way as missed opportunities piled up

Sure, the referees made some questionable calls, but the Zags lost the national title game to North Carolina by failing to hold onto the ball, block out and shoot well.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sometimes, it’s better to just lose by 30. Sometimes, knowing you weren’t the better team makes the loss more palatable.

Gonzaga just completed its greatest season in program history, which would normally leave its players beaming. But after a 71-65 loss to North Carolina, it’s more likely that they’re steaming.

There was so much to be frustrated about Monday night. From ridiculously tight (and sometimes laughable) officiating, to uncharacteristically bad shooting — the Zags weren’t hanging their heads in defeat so much as they were shaking them.

“I don’t think any of us think we played our best game,” said Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who was fighting back tears after the loss. “And that hurts.”

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Adding to the pain is the fact the Zags started off so well. With 2:50 left in the first half, they held a seven-point lead.

Josh Perkins was hitting every open three-pointer he saw. Williams-Goss was slashing through the Tar Heel D and finding open teammates. It was as aesthetically pleasing as it was entertaining.

Then it got ugly. Real ugly.

Honestly, when was the last time you heard so many whistles in such a high-profile game? When was the last time there were 27 personal fouls in the second half?

The refs weren’t necessarily biased — Gonzaga and UNC each finished with 22 fouls.

But many of the calls were questionable and seemed to affect the Zags more adversely.

Take Zach Collins, for example.

With 15:53 remaining in the game, the Gonzaga big man was looking for the ball and made what seemed to be a normal move in the post.

He ended up being called for his fourth foul despite replay showing minimal contact. Two days earlier, Collins tallied 14…

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