Utah's Britton Johnsen came to the Final Four as a freshman hoping to get some playing time and possibly walk away with a national championship.
The 6-foot-9 forward never expected to be fighting for his reputation.
An ugly incident between Johnsen and North Carolina's Makhtar Ndiaye came to a close Monday when Ndiaye admitted he fabricated a story saying Johnsen called him a racial slur during an exchange in the national semifinals Saturday night.
North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge and Ndiaye (pronounced Jeye) met for about 15 minutes in Chapel Hill, N.C., then issued an apology to Johnsen, coach Rick Majerus and the entire Utah team about six hours before they lost to Kentucky in the national title game.
"It's like a feeling of rape," Johnsen said after the game. "I didn't do anything, yet I've got all these eyes looking at me thinking I'm racist. I'm glad the situation is over. He ended up handling it real well and I feel like we handled it well."
Johnsen had seven points, four rebounds and three turnovers in 16 minutes Monday night. Majerus called the Ndiaye situation a non-factor during the title game loss.
"Coming out, it was on my mind, but I felt like I came out aggressive," Johnsen said. "It really was bothering me (Sunday). They say he was just caught up in the moment -- unfortunately it happened to me."
Ndiaye, who at times has had difficulty controlling his temper on the court, still maintained he did not spit in Johnsen's face during the Utes' upset victory. Johnsen stood by his story Monday, saying Ndiaye did spit on him.
In a statement released Monday by North Carolina, Ndiaye said:
"I was very upset after our loss Saturday to Utah and said some things I should not have said. During the game, Britt Johnsen and I were doing some trash-talking face to face, which was not right, but I did not spit on him nor did he use the N-word to me.
"I got upset in the locker room when some reporters were asking me about what we were saying to each other, and I let my emotions get away from me," he said. "I have sent Britt a letter of apology and wish him and the Utah team well in the championship game."
Utah coach Rick Majerus said the running Utes ran out of gas in the second half of Monday night's loss to Kentucky.
"Cameron Mills hit the biggest shot of the night (to tie the game at 58) and Andre Miller was just fatigued and couldn't get there," Majerus said. "Quite frankly, I think we just tired, and I think that they played more players. I felt that perhaps I should have worked a couple of those kids in earlier."
Kentucky's non-starters outscored Utah's reserves, 25-7.
Kentucky and Utah players praised each other for showing class after Monday night's game.
It was a far cry from the Utah-North Carolina game that saw hard feelings on both sides.
"No one ever said anything to anybody except positive things," Kentucky guard Jeff Sheppard said. "That's the way college basketball ought to be."
Utah center Michael Doleac seconded Sheppard's feelings.
"They've got a class coach and they don't talk trash," Doleac said.
C.M. Newton, the athletic director at Kentucky, also happens to be the chairman of the NCAA basketball selection committee.
Newton had the happy duty after Kentucky's 78-69 championship win over Utah on Monday night to present the trophy to the man he hired to replace Rick Pitino.
"How about them apples?" Newton said later. "It was a great season."
Majerus sought out Sheppard, a Kentucky senior, after the game to give him his personal congratulations. Majerus walked across the floor and shook Sheppard's hand. "He played a great game and I wanted to tell him that," Majerus said.
Utah junior guard Andre Miller said he was going to play for the Utes his senior season.
"I'm coming back," Miller said, ending speculation he might enter the NBA draft.