Final Four: North Carolina Tar Heels survive Oregon Ducks to reach National Championship

By Anthony Gimino, The Sports Xchange  |  April 2, 2017 at 12:16 AM
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- North Carolina showed why it's the best rebounding team in the country at exactly the right time.

Despite missing four free throws in the final 5.8 seconds, the Tar Heels finally subdued Oregon in a cold-shooting Final Four game Saturday.

Center Kennedy Meeks dominated inside and came up with the game-clinching rebound in a 77-76 victory in a Final Four game at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday.

Meeks missed two free throws with 5.8 seconds left, but wing Theo Pinson batted the rebound out to point guard Joel Berry II, who was fouled with four seconds to go. He also missed both attempts, but Meeks grabbed the board and North Carolina ran out the clock.

Meeks scored 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting for North Carolina, which lost in last year's championship game on Villanova's last-second shot.

It will be a matchup of No. 1 seeds in Monday night's final as the Tar Heels (32-7) take on Gonzaga (37-1).

North Carolina led the entire second half as neither of the Ducks' two big scorers -- forward Dillon Brooks and guard Tyler Dorsey -- could get hot enough to make it a one-possession game until the final minute.

Dorsey hit a 3-pointer that rolled around the rim to bring the third-seeded Ducks within 77-74 with 42 seconds left.

Pinson missed a driving layup, and Oregon pushed the ball the other way, bypassing a 3-point shot for an easy layup by center Keith Smith with 6.4 seconds left to make it 77-76.

North Carolina forward Justin Jackson poured in 22 points, including four 3-pointers. But the Tar Heels, who entered with a national-best rebounding margin of 13, shot 36.8 percent, which allowed Oregon to hang around.

Brooks, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, finished with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting before fouling out with 1:32 to go.

Dorsey, who made 25 of 40 3-point shots in the past six games, scored 21 points. He was 3 of 11 from the field and 12 of 12 from the line.

Oregon (33-6) shot 37.9 percent, including 7 of 26 from behind the arc.

Neither team looked in sync early.

North Carolina made three of its first 17 shots from the field, but Oregon failed to take advantage because it committed six turnovers in the first seven minutes.

Brooks was 0 of 4 from the field with four turnovers at one point. Dorsey missed all four of his field goal attempts in the first half. North Carolina forward Isaiah Hicks missed his first five shots.

Oregon went up 30-22 with 4:08 to go on a Dylan Ennis 3-pointer, but the Ducks committed four turnovers the rest of the half as the Tar Heels ended on 17-6 run to lead 39-36 at the break.

NOTES: North Carolina made its record 20th appearance in the Final Four. ... The Tar Heels' Roy Williams coached his 99th NCAA Tournament game. 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. ... North Carolina C Kennedy Meeks posted his 13th double-double of the season. He had eight offensive rebounds, giving him 148 for the season and moving him into second on the UNC single-season list behind Tyler Hansbrough (151 in 2008). ... The attendance of 77,612 was the second-highest total for Final Four games. ... The Tar Heels won five national titles, most recently in 2009.

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