GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Oregon kept misfiring from long range. Its top two scorers were nonfactors most of the night. The turnovers flew in every direction. Somehow, through all the adversity, the Ducks had multiple chances to knock off the Tar Heels and reach national title game.
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Oregon kept misfiring from long range. Its top two scorers were nonfactors most of the night. The turnovers flew in every direction.
Somehow, through all the adversity, the Ducks had multiple chances to knock off the Tar Heels and reach national title game.
They fumbled those away in a rash of bad shots, poor decisions and an inexplicable inability to secure rebounds on missed free throws.
Oregon struggled shooting from the perimeter and gave up two offensive rebounds on missed free throws in the final 6 seconds, leading to a disheartening 77-76 loss to North Carolina in the Final Four on Saturday night.
"A close loss like this drives coaches crazy, drives players crazy because you think about every little thing," Oregon coach Dana Altman said.
Oregon (33-6) shot 38 percent, went 3 for 18 from 3-point range in the second half and had 16 turnovers, yet pulled within 77-74 on Tyler Dorsey's 3-pointer with 45 seconds left.
The Ducks cut it to 1 on Keith Smith's layup and fouled Kennedy Meeks, who had 25 points and 14 rebounds. He missed both free throws, but the Ducks were unable to box out Theo Pinson, who got the ball to Joel Berry II.
Like Meeks, Berry missed both of his free throws, this time with 4 seconds left. Like the previous go-round, Oregon again couldn't keep the Tar Heels off the offensive glass.
Meeks grabbed the offensive board and North Carolina dribbled out the clock, earning a spot over the Ducks in the national championship game Monday night against Gonzaga.
"The first one, it just got tipped and they got it," Oregon guard Casey Benson said. "And the second one, they got it again. I wish I could have dove and gotten it."
Oregon already fought just to get here.
Forward Chris Boucher, the team's top shot-blocker, was lost for the season when he went down with a torn left ACL in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, seemingly leaving the Ducks dead in the water.
Instead, Oregon adjusted, adding a few offensive wrinkles and relying on Jordan Bell at the rim. The Ducks made an improbable run through the first two weekends of the NCAA Tournament, earning their first trip to the Final Four since 1939 with an impressive victory over Kansas in the Elite Eight.
That set Oregon up with another long, athletic team in the national semifinals.
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 Oregon that has two starters over 6-foot-5.
Oregon 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.
North Carolina stretched the lead to 10, but Dylan Ennis kept the Ducks within reach, finding ways to contort his body to get shots past the long-limbed Tar Heels. The sixth-year senior scored 18 points in final game, offsetting the combined 5-of-22 shooting night between Dorsey and Dillon Brooks.
The Ducks were solid enough defensively to prevent the Tar Heels from running away with it and had several chances in the closing minutes to whittle the lead.
Ennis had two costly plays late, failing on a potential momentum-shifting alley-oop with the Ducks down 5. He also had his shot blocked on a drive into several North Carolina players with 81 seconds left.
Brooks, Oregon's usual go-to guy, wasn't even there for the finish. He struggled all night and fouled out with 1:32 left after scoring 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
"I let my team down," Brooks said. "'They weren't falling. Some of those games they don't fall. This was the worst time to have one."
This story has been corrected to show that Oregon beat Kansas in the Elite Eight, not Kentucky.
Follow John Marshall on Twitter @jmarshallap