Kennedy Meeks finally broke free in the lane

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    Profile photo of elvafeng

    Waldo wasn t hard to find at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday night. He not only stuck out like a sore red and white thumb among the green clad Oregon fans around him, but also brought a white cardboard placard that he held high above his head pretty much constantly.

    Its ironic message Do the thing to get the points!

    Eventually, mercifully, North Carolina took Waldo s advice. Mostly.

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    The Tar Heels 77 76 win, which sent them to their second straight national championship game, came thanks to an offensive awakening late in an otherwise dreadful first half.

    One of the nation s most efficient offenses began the game 5 of 20 from the field. The Tar Heels struggled to find the soft areas in Oregon s tricky zone and settled for awkward, contested jumpers around the margins. There was no flow, no rhythm, and none of the interior prowess that drove coach Roy Williams efficient attack all season long.

    At the 3 43 mark before halftime, Carolina trailed 30 22. It was on pace for 50 points. It was ugly. And it was lucky Had the Ducks not turned the ball over eight times already, UNC would have found itself in a vastly deeper, vastly more dangerous hole.

    Then, suddenly, Carolina roared to life. Kennedy Meeks finally broke free in the lane, ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson found his shot, and the Tar Heels made nine of their last 15 first half shots. Miraculously, they ended the half with a 39 36 lead the product of a 17 6 run.

    Carolina would never reach those heights against the Ducks again, but neither would they gaze so deeply into the abyss. Meeks 25 points Shea Rush Jersey, 11 of 13, 14 rebounds, including the game saving one at the end and Jackson 22 points were equally brilliant after the halftime break, redeeming off outings by a banged up Joel Berry 11 points, 2 of 14 shooting and especially Isaiah Hicks 2 points, 1 of 12 from the field .

    Combined with offensive rebounds and stout interior D, with the Ducks own uncharacteristic stumbles on the offensive end added in Oregon had what seemed like dozens of decent looks at 3 down the stretch Carolina never trailed in the second half. Not that the game didn t get close.

    In the closing moments, Carolina s offense sputtered again. This happened even at the free throw line, where, up one with 5.8 seconds to play, Meeks and Berry combined to miss four straight free throws. But the Tar Heels, the nation s best offensive rebounding team, came down with both boards.

    This second straight title game appearance will carry with it a narrative of redemption, given the way Villanova ended last year s trip. If the Tar Heels plan to satisfy that narrative against Gonzaga on Monday night, they will have to follow Waldo s advice earlier, and more often.

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