The Latest: Gonzaga leads by 3 at half over North Carolina

North Carolina's Joel Berry II (2) celebrates after the finals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Gonzaga, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. North Carolina won 71-65. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Latest on the championship game of the NCAA Tournament between North Carolina and Gonzaga (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

North Carolina’s prowess on the boards was a major story line in the first half of the national championship game.

Gonzaga held its own early, but let North Carolina get some key boards late that helped the Tar Heels keep it close. Gonzaga coach Mark Few admitted so much, saying “we kind of got crushed there at the end.”

Gonzaga outrebounded North Carolina 25-23.

The half also saw some offensive no-shows for both teams.

North Carolina senior Isaiah Hicks was 1-for-4 from the field, including one turnaround bank shot on a pretty post move that ended up rattling out. The 6-foot-9 forward was 1 for 12 in Saturday’s win against Oregon in the national semifinals.

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7:10 p.m.

Josh Perkins scored 13 points, and Gonzaga led through most of the first half of the NCAA championship game.

The pesky Tar Heels kept it close, going into the break trailing 35-32.

Perkins, a sophomore guard, averaged eight points a game this season. He had zero field goals in two of the last three games, against West Virginia and South Carolina. His season-high scoring total is 18 points.

For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels had early shooting problems. They shot 31 percent.

It’s been a rough first half for Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski. The 7-foot-1 big man has missed all four of his shots, has three turnovers and had to go to the bench with his second foul.

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6:55 p.m.

Gonzaga is doing a solid job of blocking out in the first half of the national championship against North Carolina, even getting their guards involved to clean up defensive rebounds.

North Carolina is the nation’s top offensive rebounding team and grabbed two on missed free throws to outlast Oregon in the Final Four, but has had trouble so far getting to the offensive glass.

At one point in the first half, Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss blocked off 6-foot-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks so the Zags could grab the offensive rebound.

With four minutes left in the half, Gonzaga had outrebounded the Tar Heels 22-16.

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6:40 P.M.

Gonzaga is throwing a couple different approaches at North Carolina in the first half of the national championship game.

Less than four minutes into the game, Gonzaga put both its big men on the floor — Zach Collins and Przemek Karnowski. Collins had his first career double-double in the semifinals against South Carolina.

On the defensive side, Gonzaga is taking the small approach to guarding North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, putting point guard Nigel Williams-Goss on him.

Jackson causes matchup problems because he’s a good shooter and strong off the dribble for a 6-foot-8 player. Williams-Goss is a superb defender, but gives up five inches to Jackson.

The Zags’ decision has worked early in the game, as Jackson has yet to get on track. The standout for Gonzaga has been guard Josh Perkins, who scored 8 points early. He averaged 8 points per game this season.

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6:20 p.m.

The NCAA championship game is on.

The North Carolina Tar Heels and Gonzaga Bulldogs tipped off in front of another gigantic crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium.

This is nothing new for the Tar Heels. They’ve won five NCAA titles and were in the championship game last year, losing at the buzzer to Villanova.

This is the first NCAA title game for Gonzaga, finally making it in its 19th consecutive tournament appearance.

Retired Navy Petty Officer First Class Steven Powell sang the national anthem.

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6 p.m.

North Carolina and Gonzaga took the court for pregame warmups to boisterous cheers from their fan sections in the minutes leading up to the national championship game.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams walked onto the court casually chatting with a security guard before shaking hands with fans in the student section. Several minutes later, the Gonzaga team ran through the same tunnel to loud cheers from the Bulldogs fans.

Tar Heels players slapped hands with people on sidelines as they warmed up while Gonzaga fans waved signs proclaiming “Witness History.” North Carolina fans held up signs boasting of the school’s five NCAA national championships in men’s basketball.

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5:15 p.m.

The betting public is supporting Gonzaga, but the sharps in Las Vegas appear to be backing North Carolina to win the NCAA title.

Wagering trends released by William Hill US on Monday night show that 64 percent of the bets on the money line wager are backing Gonzaga to win the NCAA Tournament. But 78 percent of the amount of money wagered on the bet is backing the Tar Heels, meaning North Carolina is getting fewer but more substantial bets.

William Hill operates more than 100 sports books in Nevada.

The money line is at plus-100 for Gonzaga, meaning a win pays at even money. North Carolina is at minus-120, meaning a bettor would need to wager $120 to win $100.

The shift is slight but meaningful in games where the spread is close — North Carolina is favored by 1 point and that means some gamblers who want to back Gonzaga might prefer to just take slightly better money line odds.

Gonzaga accounts for about 55 percent of the money wagered and tickets on the spread.

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3:55 p.m.

About one-fourth of those who filled out brackets on ESPN and Yahoo still have a chance to correctly call the March Madness champion.

About 15 percent of bracketeers on ESPN and 17 percent on ESPN picked North Carolina to win the title before the tournament started, making the Tar Heels the most popular selection for champion in the 68-team field.

Gonzaga is the fifth most popular pick on both platforms as a champ on about 9 percent of brackets.

More popular as title picks than Gonzaga: Villanova, Kansas and Duke.

Not bad for a tournament that wrecked brackets all over the field, especially in the East region where No. 7 seed South Carolina made the Final Four. Far fewer than 1 percent of brackets predicted the Gamecocks to go that far.

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3:30 p.m.

Two of the top teams coming into March Madness are set to settle the title in the 67th game of the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina and Gonzaga play Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. Tipoff is set for about 6:20 p.m. local time, 9:20 p.m. EDT.

The final pits two of the most elite teams in college hoops against one another: both the Tar Heels and the Bulldogs boast top-level coaches, guards and interior players.

Down low, Gonzaga’s 7-foot-1, 300-pound Przemek Karnowski faces North Carolina’s 6-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks. Meeks had a career game in the Final Four against Oregon with 25 points. Gonzaga also has Zach Collins, a 7-foot freshman who could be a one-and-done player.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams is chasing a third title is his fourth championship game. Gonzaga coach Mark Few had never made the Final Four before this season, but has taken the Zags in all 18 years he’s led.

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