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GLENDALE, Ariz. (SportsDirect Inc.) — North Carolina is hoping for another chance to finish the job in the NCAA Tournament and Oregon looks to ride the momentum of its deepest run since 1939 when the teams meet in the national semifinals Saturday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Ariz.
While Oregon reached the Final Four despite losing a key player to injury in the Pac-12 tournament, the Tar Heels return for the second straight year after having their hearts broken in the title game.
“I think our kids really used it a great deal as motivation during the offseason,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams told reporters of the 77-74 loss to Villanova in the final. “Once we started practice, you know, you’re putting together a team then, and I’d make reference to it periodically … about what’s the most fun you’ve had, just remind them, because everybody said it was the run to the national championship game last year.”
The Tar Heels hope to have a healthy Joel Berry II (two sprained ankles) to run the show against the Ducks, who have been led by the hot shooting of sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey and some solid defense despite being without 6-10 senior Chris Boucher (knee) since the Pac-12 semifinal.
North Carolina needed a last-second jumper from reserve Luke Maye to beat Kentucky 75-73 while Oregon held Kansas to 35 percent shooting in a 74-60 victory at the Elite Eight last weekend.
“We’re just staying in the moment, enjoying it and having fun,” Ducks guard Casey Benson told reporters. “… We have a real opportunity to be a national championship team.”
TV: 8:49 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT OREGON (33-5): The Ducks have done a decent job on the boards this season (plus-4.2 margin), but will need to raise that level higher against the Tar Heels: “Their offensive rebounding numbers are off the charts, so we have to do a great job on the boards,” coach Dana Altman told reporters. Dorsey has been nicknamed “Mr. March” by his teammates, scoring at least 20 in seven straight games while averaging 24.5 in the tournament and making 17-of-26 from 3-point range. Junior Jordan Bell stepped up his game in Boucher’s absence, averaging 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in the NCAAs after blocking eight shots against Kansas.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (31-7): Maye, a former walk-on, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional after scoring 17 against Kentucky and is averaging 12.5 in the first four games of the tournament. Junior swingman Justin Jackson, the ACC Player of the Year, is averaging 19.8 points in the NCAAs but will need the talented Berry (14.6 overall) to provide him room to operate although the junior point guard is 6-for-26 from behind the arc in the Big Dance. Senior forward Kennedy Meeks, who is averaging 13 rebounds in the tournament after hauling in a career-best 17 against Kentucky, will play a big role against Oregon’s physical lineup.
1. Oregon junior forward Dillon Brooks tops the team in scoring overall (16.3) and is averaging 16.5 in the NCAA Tournament, including 17 versus Kansas.
2. The Tar Heels have won all four meetings with the Ducks, including a 98-69 at the 2008 Maui Invitational in the last matchup.
3. North Carolina, which leads the nation in rebound margin (plus-13), is participating in his record 20th Final Four and Williams is coaching in his ninth – fourth most all time.
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