The Tar Heels picked up a 77-76 win Saturday night over the No. 3 seeded Oregon Ducks, moving one game away from their sixth NCAA basketball national title.
OR overcame a string of early turnovers and offensive rebounds by North Carolina to build a 6-point lead in the first half, only to allow the Tar Heels to go on a late run that carried over into the second half. After another foul, North Carolina missed two more free throws before snagging a secondoffensive rebound, running out the final seconds of Oregon's season.
That's when Meeks stepped up again, getting the board past Bell that would seal the game after four consecutive missed Tar Heel free throws.
North Carolina got both offensive rebounds - one by Theo Pinson, the other by Meeks - despite having the natural disadvantage on the block.
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.
UNC defeated OR in their Final Four matchup Saturday night to advance to Monday night's national championship game against Gonzaga.
Junior guard Joel Berry II, who missed the final two free throws, was shocked.
The Oregon Ducks (33-6) overcame the loss of shot-blocking forward Chris Boucher to an ACL tear in the Pac-12 tournament to make their first Final Four since winning the inaugural NCAA Tournament in 1939.
"First of all I've never been in a game where I missed so many free throws like that", he said. The Ducks went 7-for-26 on 3-pointers, and they had a chance late because Dorsey missed a three, then got a second chance and received perhaps the luckiest bounce on the rim all tournament with 46 seconds left. They were down seven points and free throws would be key the rest of the way.
SC (26-10) and Gonzaga (36-1) will be making their Final Four debuts when they meet in the first national semifinal Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
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It should not be hard to improve the quality of the squad this summer, given the poor back-up options behind the first team, but there are fewer guarantees that the new-look outfit will have what it takes to control these big occasions.
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What a weird ending.
It's going to be hard for North Carolina to shake off the ghost of Villanova guard Kris Jenkins' buzzer-beater in last season's national championship game.
Kennedy Meeks would not be denied.
Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks were monsters on the inside and out.
"That's like the 50th time we've kind of answered a question about [Villanova]", Jackson said. Gonzaga led by 14 points when Collins joined Karnowski with 10:39 remaining in the game, and SC went on a 14-0 run over the next three minutes before eventually taking the lead. But the Tar Heels remained tied with the Ducks heading into the under-12 media timeout thanks to a handful of OR turnovers. If only it were that easy for the Tar Heels. "I sat down with my parents and they said, 'Just be the best you you can be".
North Carolina advances to Monday's NCAA national championship game against Gonzaga. "I thought the guys did a great job", Few said. "But I told him, 'Buddy, you got 16 rebounds". Meeks had a double double with 25 points and 14 rebounds.
"Oh, jump off the building, something like that", Williams said.
After Pinson dashed away from any adjacent OR defenders to avoid having to go through all that free throwing one more time, he threw the ball toward the roof of the stadium. Jackson scored 22 points and hit four 3-pointers, including a pair from the corner in the span of a minute after OR had cut the lead to three and Meeks had left the floor with his third foul.
Dylan Ennis and Tyler Dorsey scored 21 and 18 points for the Ducks.
BROOKS STRUGGLES: Dillon Brooks has been the leader for OR all season, but struggled, finishing with 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting before fouling out.