Meeks shoots, and rebounds, and saves the day for Tar Heels

North Carolina missed four straight free throws at the end of the game but got offensive rebounds in both cases to emerge victorious.

Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points, Gonzaga’s big men combined for 27 and the Bulldogs kept SC from taking a game-tying shot in a 77-73 victory Saturday night in a matchup of first-time teams at the Final Four.

Mere minutes after crashing Joel Berry II’s personal press conference Friday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium, Theo Pinson suddenly darted behind Roy Williams on stage in the main interview room.

If you’re an Oregon Ducks fan, this is hard to watch. The Mayes sat four rows behind the Tar Heels’ bench, and when Kentucky’s Malik Monk made a tough 3-pointer to tie the game late, Mark Maye said he wasn’t sure the Tar Heels had enough time to score.

“That’s one of our leaders, one of our best players — any aspect you want to throw out there, he’s at the top of it”, Jackson said. “And fortunately for us Jordan Bell has really stepped up. We’ve seen everything. We’ve been through everything”. They made it to the finals only to lose at the buzzer thanks to Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hitting a three-pointer for the ages.

Behind that is a senior in Nate Britt, who can play either guard position.

UNC will turn to Justin Jackson, who led the team in scoring this year with 18.2 points per game.

Berry has been battling two sprained ankles, the last of which was suffered in the Kentucky game. “I mean, we did lose it a year ago, but at the same time we know what we have to take care of first, and that’s OR”. And North Carolina is determined to make this year’s different than last.

UNC hasn’t lost a transfer since 2011.

“I haven’t sensed that our team has many thoughts in a negative manner about what happened past year except the final outcome”, Williams said. “The biggest way to get their big guys in foul trouble is to go inside”. “We understand we have the best chance here of doing that. We just happen to be the only team that’s back”.

The other variable is the lack of one-and-done talent.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams calls for a timeout during the first half against OR in the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. This is Roy Williams’ 99th career tournament game. That’s a positive for OR, I think. Carolina might be the most talented team remaining in the tournament, but OR is also a club that has a ton of quality guys. “You’re trying to tip it out or get a rebound”.

Where do they play next? Watching the game in the Dean Dome and then running like insane to Franklin Street to celebrate all night is one of the all-time highlights for me.

The real question is how much confidence Berry will have in his injured ankles when he gets out on the court and starts to run, shoot and defend.

The Tar Heels are 31-7 and were 14-4 in the ACC this season.

“A dream was to get here”, Jackson said. “But we will have our work cut out for us on Saturday”.

North Carolina's Maye leads list of X-factors