North Carolina is headed back to the NCAA championship game.
One year after a stunning loss to Villanova at the buzzer, North Carolina secured a return to the championship game with a resilient 77–76 win over Oregon on Saturday night.
In what was a sloppy game at times, the tandem of Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson led the Tar Heels. Meeks had 25 points, 14 rebounds and three steals and Jackson added 22 points, including four made threes.
Both teams struggled to score down the stretch, the Ducks eventually pulling within five with three minutes to go. Tyler Dorsey hit a three-pointer to pull Oregon within three with 42 seconds left, and the Ducks managed a stop on the other end, leading to a broken possession and layup by Keith Smith that brought it to one point.
Carolina was bailed out by clutch rebounding late, after Kennedy Meeks missed two free throws with 5.8 seconds left, and a huge rebound by Theo Pinson bailed the Tar Heels out. In another nerve-racking moment, Joel Berry also missed both ensuing free throws, but Meeks dug up another board to save the game and ice it.
Oregon was led by Dylan Ennis’s 18 points and six rebounds. The Ducks also got 13 and 15 from big man Jordan Bell, who briefly left the game due to an injury late in the first half. Stars Dillon Brooks and Dorsey struggled at times, combining for 31 points and going a combined 18–18 from the line, but making just five field goals between them. The Ducks shot just 7–26 from three as a team.
North Carolina will face Gonzaga on Monday night, after the Bulldogs beat South Carolina 77–73 on Saturday.