A year after losing the national title game on a buzzer-beater, North Carolina is back in the championship contest of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Tar Heels (32-7) downed the Oregon Ducks 77-76 in the second national semifinal Saturday night behind Kennedy Meeks’ career-high 25 points.
“We’re relieved. We feel very lucky. But the fact of the matter is we’re still playing,” UNC Coach Roy Williams said.
UNC will play Gonzaga (37-1) Monday night for the national championship. Earlier the Bulldogs edged South Carolina 77-73.
The Tar Heels have won five NCAA tournament titles, the most recent in 2009. Last year, the Tar Heels lost to Villanova in the title game when Kris Jenkins’ three-pointer gave the Wildcats a 77-74 victory.
They would have lost Saturday if not for Meeks, Williams said.
“I just knew that we had to be aggressive in the paint. Coach told us that it was going to be a man’s game,” said Meeks, who also had a team-high 14 rebounds. With UNC’s other big men struggling, Meeks “took it upon myself to try to (do) the best I could, to call for the ball.”
Meeks made 11 of 13 shots. His teammates made 14 of 55.
Guard Tyler Dorsey led Oregon with 21 points.
The national championship game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Monday at 9 p.m ET.
This is Gonzaga’s first national championship game.