Meeks saves the day for UNC

On another day, Kennedy Meeks' two missed free throws with five second left lead to an OR basket at the other end and UNC losing. The other three big men put together had 12 rebounds and six points. Thornwell made the first and purposely missed the second, but 6-10 Killian Tillie secured the rebound for Gonzaga.

The Tar Heels (32-7) downed the Oregon Ducks 77-76 in the second national semifinal Saturday night behind Kennedy Meeks' career-high 25 points.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he only mentioned last season's national championship game once to his players through this season's tournament.

No. 1 seed North Carolina beat third-seeded OR 77-76 on Saturday to advance to Monday's national championship game against Gonzaga. But Theo Pinson got inside and batted the ball back out to Joel Berry II, who got fouled with 4 seconds left. "You can't go all that way and fight yourself back into the game and lead the whole game and just lose off of one-second shot". "And make sure you don't get fouled because apparently we can make free throws".

Speaking of Berry playing bad, Meeks and ACC player of the year Justin Jackson combined for 47 points on 17-for-26 shooting while the rest of the team had 30 points on a terrible 8-for-42 from the floor.

"I was out of it".

"I'm standing nearly on line with that three [by Dorsey], and there was no way that ball was going in the basket", Williams told reporters.

"He didn't sulk. He didn't just think about himself".

Meanwhile, North Carolina is 3-0-1 ATS in their last four games following an ATS loss, and 14-6-2 ATS in their last 22 neutral-site games. But I told him: I said, 'Buddy, you got 16 rebounds. They have a reputation for being soft.

North Carolina struggled for much of the first half on Saturday, digging themselves a 30-22 hold as they missed 18 of their first 24 shots.

Dorsey, who made 25 of 40 3-point shots in the past six games, scored 21 points.

North Carolina shot just 33 percent from the field in the second half, and missed eight free throw attempts.

North Carolina was the nation's best offensive rebounding team by a wide margin during the regular season and has an imposing front line, particularly for a team like OR that has two starters over 6-foot-5.

Even with Berry and Isaiah Hicks combining to shoot just 3-for-26 from the field, UNC still found a way to win.

"He can do whatever the hell he wants until Monday night", Sahratian said of Meeks.

Carolina stayed alive by forcing 12 first-half turnovers and getting up so many more shots than the Ducks that it didn't really matter how poorly it was shooting.

"I'm really, really proud of our guys and our late-game execution", Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said. The Gonzaga-South Carolina game, no raving beauty itself, was more winsome than this. But Meeks was there, and the Tar Heels won a very thrilling game in a very weird way.

It was their defense, and that's coming from a program that's hardly been a bastion of defensive efficiency over the years.

Kennedy Meeks relentlessly attacked the boards, posting up deep in the paint and playing with an aggressive edge that hasn't always been there through his North Carolina career.

Dillon Brooks had to watch Oregon's rally fall short from the bench.

Piling up 17 offensive rebounds-and a few clutch plays from Meeks, Pinson and Jackson-proved to be just enough to earn the Tar Heels a shot at redemption on Monday night.

Jackson, who also locked down Malik Monk in the Elite 8, did the heavy-lifting on Dorsey, while it was Pinson that was guarding Brooks.

"We will get back in the gym tomorrow and probably work on a lot of free throws but we are just happy to move onto the next game".

They never trailed in the second half but also never got a lead that seemed comfortable.

The job won't get any easier on Monday, however.

  • Julie Sanders