North Carolina Overcomes Sluggish Shooting to Barely Escape Oregon

Second semifinal decided by four missed free throws from North Carolina

Yes, my online friends–you read that secondary byline correctly.  As anemic as the shooting was early on, North Carolina started out 3 of 12 shooting.  Oregon on the other hand wasn’t that much better going at a rather paltry 4 of 7 clip from the floor.  North Carolina failed to get inside, since Oregon’s defense managed to cut off many passing lanes early in the game.

Both teams struggled to score as it was tied at 11 in the under 12 minute TV time out–UNC shooting a rather horrible 3 of 17 at this point, with Oregon shooting only 40 percent themselves at 4 of 10.

With 3:43 left in the first half, Oregon took their largest lead at 30-22.  However, the Tar Heels went on a 17-6 run to close the half and just like with Gonzaga earlier–UNC scored the last seven points of the half to take a 39-36 halftime lead.

It got worse in the University of Phoenix Stadium, as PA announcer Gene Honda’s microphone was not working for several minutes at the start of the second half.  The crowd of 77,612 (the second largest crowd behind the 2009 Final Four at Ford Field in Detroit) instead heard the CBS call of Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, and Bill Raftery being piped inside the stadium in addition in all of the concourses and bathrooms.

Dylan Ennis had 10 to lead the Ducks, while Kennedy Meeks came up with some huge plays for Roy Williams when his team needed them the most, leading all scorers with 18.  Joel Berry II appeared to have both ankles working fine on the floor and did not show any ill effects from his pair of injuries during the South Regional Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds had only five points.

The key stat in this game was the turnovers, Oregon had 12 while North Carolina coughed up the ball only five times in the first 20 minutes.

The overall shooting was definitely not something to write or text home about:

UNC was 8 of 27, 2 for 8 on three-pointers, for Oregon was 10 of 22, but 4 of 8 on threes.

While the PA’s microphone was being worked on at press row, Justin Jackson made his presence felt hitting a trey with 17:09 to play which increased the Tar Heels lead to 46-38.

The closest Oregon managed to get in the first part of the second half was a Tyler Dorsey three to cut UNC’s lead to four.  A Jordan Bell layup with 79 seconds left to play in regulation trimmed the lead again to four, with UNC leading 75-71.

The final minute brought some rather bizarre theater

In the first 39 minutes, Oregon’s big guns of Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks were a combined 4 for 21 in shooting from downtown.  Most of them, they had good looks but were not able to go down.  Others were caused by defensive pressure as North Carolina’s ability to hawk the ball proved to be the ultimate difference.

However, the Ducks were not going to quack away quietly.  A Dorsey three point attempt curled around the front of the rim once, then the back rim twice, then around the front right side of the rim a second time before finally settling in to trim UNC’s lead to 77-74 with 42 seconds left.

Theo Pinson missed a jumper for the Tar Heels that could have iced the game.  Instead, Jordan Bell corralled the rebound and guard Payton Pritchard nearly walked with the ball twice (once in the backcourt and again trying to pivot as if he was going to shoot a three for the tie).  As it turned out, Keith Smith made a wide open layup to trim North Carolina’s lead once more to 77-76 with 5.8 seconds left.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

Kennedy Meeks missed on a pair of throws.  Oregon failed to secure the rebound.  The Ducks immediately fouled Joel Berry II.  Berry missed both of his free throw attempts, but Oregon again wasted the final four seconds failing to foul as Meeks grabbed the final rebound and smartly passed the ball towards mid-court to end it.

The final stats from this rather anemic shooting performance, as both teams shot less than 38 percent for the game:

Kennedy Meeks made some unique history with scoring 25 points, 10 rebounds, and shooting over 80 percent for the game (11 out of 13), becoming the first player since Sam Perkins did it for the Tar Heels in 1982.  The list from national semfinals past also includes Michael Jordan in 1982, Bill Walton in 1973, and Oscar Robertson in 1962.

Also enjoying a nice game for the Tar Heels was Justin Jackson, who finished up with 22 points.  Oregon was led by Tyler Dorsey with 21 hard earned points and Dylan Ennis chipped in with 18.  Dillon Brooks was held to only 10 points to go along with six rebounds.  Even without injured Chris Boucher, Jordan Bell led everybody with 16 rebounds in a losing cause.  The benches were not much of a factor, but second chance points tilted the balance of the game in the Tar Heels favor–with UNC winning that battle by a very wide margin, 16 to 4.  Another telling stat was UNC dominated the offensive glass by a 17 to 12 total.

North Carolina’s close shave 77-76 national semifinal win sets up an epic battle for Monday night, which Yours Truly Online predicted when the brackets were released.

I had both Gonzaga and North Carolina playing for the national title:).

One other piece of hoop related news worth sharing:

Basketball Hall of Fame class announced on ESPN2

Earlier in the day, the 2017 Basketball Hall of Fame Class was announced in Dallas for ceremonies to be held in September at Springfield, Massachusetts.  Congratulations to some very popular names for getting inducted, from the likes of Bill Self, Head Coach of Kansas, Muffett McGraw, longtime Women’s Head Coach at Notre Dame, Rebecca Lobo from the 1995 UConn Lady Huskies championship team, Tracy McGrady of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, one-time Indiana high school and ABA Pacers legend from the early 1970’s, George McGinnis, and the architect behind the Chicago Bulls dynasty winning six NBA titles during the 1990’s, the longtime former General Manager (1985-2003) who died recently who had his legendary battles with the media, Jerry Krause.

Pair of Number 1 seeds will duke it out for the 2017 title

Will Gonzaga become the first true mid-major to cut down the nets since the all-legendary first black squad to win it all, the former Texas Western (now UTEP) way back in 1966, or will Roy Williams make it number five for his alma mater and his third since coming back as Head Coach?

One key statistic to chew over while watching Monday’s edition of The Price is Right:  Gonzaga is the fourth team since 1985 to enter the title game with one loss.

On Monday night at 9:20 p.m. Eastern time on CBS (remember that the pregame show starts 30 minutes earlier than in years past at 8:30, instead of 9 p.m.), the overall number 3 and 4 seeds will compete for the 2017 National Championship.

Hope to see you all then.  Thanks for sticking with me on this April Fool’s Day 2017, otherwise known as Super Saturday 2017 in my world.

Please have a good night and pleasant hoop dreams, everybody.

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