North Carolina survived a thriller against Oregon 77-76 in the second April Fool’s evening contest of the evening. The Tar Heels secured a date with the win in the National Championship game to be held on Monday, April 3, 2017.
The Oregon Ducks were making their first appearance in the Final Four since 1939. North Carolina marked their 20th Final Four appearance. The crowd in Arizona’s University of Phoenix stadium was treated to a close contest that ended with the winner scoring 77 points.
The Tar Heels of North Carolina led most of the game, though the Ducks held a brief first half lead of eight points. The game remained close with the lead changing hands six times in the first half.
North Carolina led 39-36 at the end of the first period after staging a 7-0 run to end the half with the lead. The Tar Heels did not surrender the lead in the second half.
Forward Kennedy Meeks led the Tar Heels with a career-high, 25 points. Meeks was also the top rebounder of the game, snagging 8 boards.
Oregon fell behind by 10 points late in the second-half after missing six straight shots. Dillon Brooks, the Pac 10 player of the year, was disappointing for the Ducks. He scored just 10 points and fouled out with 1:32 left in the game.
The Ducks climbed back into the game with a furious rally to cut the Tar Heels lead to just one point, with under a minute left. North Carolina secured key rebounds off of their missed free throws with only seconds left to pull out the victory.
Next up for North Carolina is the National Championship game against Gonzaga on Monday night. Gonzaga brings a 37-1 record into their first attempt to win it all. North Carolina reached the finals last year and was defeated by Villanova.
Written by Daniel Osborn
Edited by Cathy Milne
ESPN: North Carolina squeaks into second straight title game after offense wakes up
Top and featured images courtesy of Daniel Osborn