Oregon's season ends with agonizing 77-76 loss to North Carolina

Killian Tillie rebounded for Gonzaga, was fouled and made two free throws to cement the game. No surprise there, either.

Kennedy Meeks had 25 points and 14 rebounds to lead North Carolina to a 77-76 win over OR in the Final Four Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.

- Kennedy Meeks capped off his career night with an offensive rebound that helped North Carolina hold off OR 77-76 and return to the NCAA championship game, where its title hopes got dashed at the buzzer last season.

Meeks followed with a basket for OR before Dorsey hit two free throws. Then Meeks, whose 25 points and 14 rebounds helped the Tar Heels beat OR to reach Monday's national championship game, answered.

The Tar Heels have won five NCAA tournament titles, the most recent in 2009.

Head coach Dana Altman said he was proud of the competitiveness of his squad, but said mental mistakes cost them the victory and the trip to the National Championship game Monday night.

"To be playing the last game of the year, that's insane cool", Few said.

Meeks had plenty to mop up for. The rest of the team besides Meeks was 14 for 55 from the floor. The Ducks did cut the lead to 1 point with six seconds left, but the Tar Heels snagged two offensive rebounds in the final seconds after free throws to prevent OR from even getting a buzzer beater attempt off.

Given the late lead and Oregon's own terrible shooting (37 percent), losing this one might have felt every bit as bad as the Villanova loss a year ago for this, a team on a mission with only one acceptable destination.

"It's a dream to get (to the championship)", North Carolina coach Roy Williams told reporters. "But I thought, you know, getting those blocked shots would help us". He also missed both attempts, but Meeks grabbed the board and North Carolina ran out the clock.

It did, and it wasn't pretty. But Theo Pinson got inside and batted the ball back out to Joel Berry II, who got fouled with 4 seconds left. But Meeks outmuscled Jordan Bell for that final rebound, threw it outside, and this ugly affair was over.

Against the Ducks, the rebounding battle was even (43 each), though North Carolina got five more on the offensive glass, which resulted in 19 second-chance points, 10 more shots and, eventually, the win. "It was hard to get kind of used to that zone that they were playing, but he kept on competing inside for the boards and he posted extremely low", Justin Jackson said. "But I just try to get lost and I just try not to think about it". "We talk and work on little things all the time".

Not that OR was lighting it up, either.

Back to Meeks. His layup with 8:32 remaining gave North Carolina its first double digit lead at 66-56.

Tyler Dorsey led OR with 21 points and Dylan Ennis had 18.

A junior, Berry sprained his right ankle during the Tar Heels' rout of Texas Southern in the first round.

"We're relieved. We feel very lucky. For him to have a night like he did tonight for us is pretty awesome".

That didn't happen. Senior Isaiah Hicks continued his abrupt late-season fade by missing 11 of 12 shots and finishing with 2 points.

Whatever blame Bell wants to put himself, there's no denying the Ducks wouldn't have been in position to win it without him.

The Tar Heels increased a three-point halftime lead early in the second half when Meeks stuck back a couple of misses. Brooks had 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting to go with five turnovers. He is 75-24. Oregon C Jordan Bell had 13 points and 16 rebounds, his sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament game with at least 12 rebounds. Now, after a 77-76 victory against OR on Saturday night in an NCAA tournament national semifinal, UNC will have its chance to earn its long-sought redemption. The Ducks threatened and did so valiantly in their first Final Four since 1939, but in the end it wasn't enough.

  • Julie Sanders