3 keys to North Carolina's Final Four win over Oregon

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the biggest difference-makers in Saturday's second Final Four game at Glendale, Ariz.

1. Rebounding, especially at the end

In a pregame interview, Oregon coach Dana Altman made it clear his team is not better without injured frontcourt player Chris Boucher, a shot-blocking and rebound presence that was finally felt in a game against a superior rebounding team in North Carolina on Saturday night. Still, the Ducks tied the Tar Heels 43-43 in the rebound battle but it was the second opportunities that the Tar Heels created for themselves that ultimately sunk the Ducks. Trailing by one with five seconds left, Oregon fouled Kennedy Meeks, a 63% free-throw shooter. He bricked both free throws, but Theo Pinson's offensive rebound saved UNC and sent Joel Berry II to the charity stripe. Surprisingly, he missed both. But again the Ducks failed on the glass, as a Meeks offensive rebound with four seconds left — and subsequent outlet pass to drowned out the clock — led to Oregon's demise. North Carolina won, but it's difficult to not look at it from the lens of Oregon losing it there at the end and on the glass.

2. Dillon Brooks struggling

As big as Dylan Ennis (18 points) was in this game and as huge as Mr. March, Tyler Dorsey, has been all tournament, Brooks is the team's alpha dog and go-to guy down the stretch. So when he fouled out with 1:32 remaining it surely wasn't a good sign, especially considering he's hit two game-winning shots this season. But Brooks' early exit essentially summed up his lackluster performance. Brooks had 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting to go with five turnovers. Oregon coach Dana Altman said after the game his team had "too many turnovers and bad decisions...we didn't give ourselves a chance."

Brooks, who felt like he was trying to do too much most of the night, was unspectacular when even a decent offensive performance could've helped lift Oregon in the one-point loss, especially when Berry II wasn't his normal self, finishing 2-for-14 shooting from the floor himself.

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3. Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson

Speaking of Berry playing awful, Meeks and ACC player of the year Justin Jackson combined for 47 points on 17-for-26 shooting while the rest of the team had 30 points on a dreadful 8-for-42 from the floor. It wasn't just Berry who struggled, though. Isaiah Hicks was 1-for-12 from the field. It's only the second time ever that a team won an NCAA tournament game when two players took at least 10 shots and shot worse than 15% from the field — since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Jackson has been sensational all tournament and finished with 22 points off four three-pointers Saturday, while Meeks was the key player in the game with 25 points and 14 rebounds.


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