North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II, playing through injured ankles much of the NCAA Tournament, was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after lifting the Tar Heels to a sixth national championship Monday.
Berry rebounded from a sub-par performance in the national semifinals with a game-high 22 points and six assists as UNC outlasted Gonzaga, 71-65. He scored or assisted on 34 points in all as the Tar Heels earned redemption for their heartbreaking loss to Villanova in last year's title game.
The junior, who had 20 points last year, is the first player since Bill Walton (UCLA, 1972-73) to score 20 points or more in back-to-back title games.
And he did it this year at less than 100 percent.
Berry originally tweaked his right ankle in UNC's first-round game and rolled his left ankle in the Elite Eight against Kentucky.
In choosing to play through pain, the injuries clearly impacted Berry's play Saturday against Oregon, when he shot just 2 of 14 from the field for 11 points.
"You don’t understand the pain until you have to go through it," Berry said Sunday, vowing to play at his best in the national title game, injury notwithstanding.