The Latest: North Carolina escapes after late Oregon rally
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Latest on the semifinal games in the Final Four: (all times local):
North Carolina is one game away from its sixth college basketball national championship after surviving a late rally in the final seconds against Oregon.
Kennedy Meeks matched his career high with 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as North Carolina won 77-76.
Meeks' final rebound was the most pivotal, coming after a missed free throw in the closing seconds.
North Carolina missed four straight free throws at the end of the game but got offensive rebounds in both cases to emerge victorious.
Dylan Ennis and Tyler Dorsey scored 21 and 18 points for the Ducks. Dillon Brooks had a rough night for Oregon, making 2 of 11 shots and committing five turnovers before fouling out.
North Carolina's academic scandal was brought up on the CBS broadcast during the second half of the Tar Heels' national semifinal against Oregon.
Jim Nantz suggested that recruiting has been tough for the Tar Heels because of the scandal, noting the team has an upperclassman-dominated roster. "They've had to live with all of this, all the swirling innuendo with what went on there with all the academic fraud allegations," he said.
North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham told The Associated Press earlier this week that it "would be inappropriate to try to estimate a timeline" as to when this saga might end. The NCAA's ongoing probe of the Tar Heels is tied to irregularities in an academic department and led to five broad-based charges against the school that include lack of institutional control.
Current UNC players were years away from arriving in Chapel Hill when it began.
The Final Four brought the largest crowd to attend a sporting event at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Organizers say attendance was 77,612. That is dramatically more fans than the building typically holds for Arizona Cardinals football games. Average attendance for Cardinals games is about 64,000. The Cardinals have sold out every game since the building opened in 2006.
The stadium can hold thousands more seats for basketball in what marks the first time the Final Four has been in Arizona.
One half in, and North Carolina's Joel Berry II is having a quiet night as he plays through two sprained ankles.
Berry hit an early 3-pointer but didn't make another shot the rest of the half, finishing with five points on 1-for-4 shooting.
It's unclear how much the injuries are affecting him, though some of that could be Oregon's defense that had UNC off-balance for about 17 minutes before a late Tar Heels run.
North Carolina's offense took a long time to get going but finally picked things up, and the Tar Heels lead Oregon 39-36 at halftime in the nightcap of Saturday's Final Four semifinals.
Kennedy Meeks dominated play inside with 14 points and five rebounds for the Tar Heels.
North Carolina missed 17 of its first 20 shots but finished the half with a 17-6 run. Oregon had an eight-point lead at one point.
North Carolina appeared to lose its shooting touch somewhere between home and Arizona. Oregon had trouble holding onto the ball.
The start of the Tar Heels-Ducks national semifinal game was marred by offensive struggles by both teams.
North Carolina made only 5 of its first 20 shots and Oregon committed eight turnovers in the game's first 11 minutes.
Theo Pinson briefly went out of the game, adding to North Carolina's offensive woes.
The national semifinal contest between North Carolina and Oregon is underway, with the winner to face Gonzaga in the championship game.
North Carolina is looking to return to the title game after losing to Villanova on a last-second shot last year. North Carolina has won five national titles, most recently in 2009. Oregon's only championship was in 1939.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs survived a furious second-half rally by South Carolina to advance to their first national championship game.
South Carolina reeled off 16 straight points to take a 67-65 lead with 7:06 to play. Zach Collins answered with a 3-pointer to put Gonzaga back on top and the Bulldogs held on from there.
Collins, a 7-foot freshman, had an impressive stat line: 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in 23 minutes of play.
Gonzaga advances to Monday night's title game against the winner of Saturday night's Oregon-North Carolina agame.
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 for the Bulldogs. P.J. Dozier had 17 points for the Gamecocks.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are headed to the national title game.
Gonzaga weathered a furious second-half rally by South Carolina and held on to beat the Gamecocks 77-73 at the Final Four on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs, who have lost once in 38 games this season, play the winner of the Oregon-North Carolina game for the national championship Monday night.
South Carolina is displaying more of its patented second-half magic in the NCAA tournament.
Down by 14 to Gonzaga, the Gamecocks came roaring back to take the lead with 7:06 remaining. Their run reached 16-0 at that point before Gonzaga ended its scoreless drought.
The Gamecocks scored on six straight possessions. Meanwhile, Gonzaga, so smooth on offense most of the game, went over three minutes without a score.
South Carolina has trailed at half three times in the tournament, and the Gamecocks have outscored the opposition in the second half by 54 points.
The decision by Nigel Williams-Goss to leave Seattle is turning out to be a decisive addition for Gonzaga in its bid for the school's first national title.
The guard from Happy Valley, Oregon, played his first two seasons for Lorenzo Romar at Washington but left after the 2014-15 season.
He heated up in the second half, pushing Gonzaga's lead to 14 points with a 3-point play with about 10 minutes to play. He reached 23 points with the 3-point play. That despite turning his ankle a few minutes earlier.
Williams-Goss is averaging about 17 points a game this year.
South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell missed a day of practice this week after coming down with a fever and headache. And the SEC player of the year's coach acknowledged he wasn't at full strength in the first half against Gonzaga.
Frank Martin said the Gamecocks need to find a way to help out Thornwell. "He obviously doesn't have a lot of energy and bounce in his game right now," Martin said.
Complicating matters for the senior guard is the fact that the Zags guarded him with the 6-foot-9 Johnathan Williams. Long arms and a 4-inch height advantage have helped make things tough for Thornwell.
Thornwell had five points in the first half after averaging 25.8 points through the first four games of the tournament.
North Carolina will have starting point guard Joel Berry II for Saturday's semifinal against Oregon.
Berry was included on the pregame list of starters. There had been some question about his status this week due to a pair of sprained ankles suffered during the NCAA Tournament, the second coming during the Elite Eight win against Kentucky. The junior had sounded confident about his chances in pregame interviews and pronounced himself "85 percent" on Friday.
The question now is whether — or how much — the injuries affect his play against the Ducks.
Gonzaga scored the final seven points of the first half to build a 45-36 lead over South Carolina in the Final Four.
The Bulldogs came close to going into halftime with a double-digit lead and on a 10-0 run, but Silas Melson's 3-pointer at the buzzer was waved off.
Nigel Williams-Goss had 12 points to lead Gonzaga, whose surge came without their massive center.
Przemek Karnowski — 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds — took a hand to the face and went down hard under the Gonzaga basket. He stayed down for several minutes before making to the bench and going to the locker room.
Gonzaga shot 58 percent to the Gamecocks' 37 percent.
South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell, the SEC player of the year, had just five points on 1-for-5 shooting.
Gonzaga suffered a setback late in the first half against South Carolina when big man Przemek Karnowski took a hand to the face and was taken to the locker room to be checked out.
Karnowski was led off the court by trainers after getting hit by South Carolina Chris Silva. He is expected to return.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin walked out on to the court to check on Karnowski. Martin bent over and said, "Are you all right?" An Gonzaga athletic trainer then attended to Karnowski.
The 7-foot-1 center from Poland had six points and four rebounds when he left.
Sindarius Thornwell has been red hot for South Carolina in the NCAA tournament. Not so much in the first half against Gonzaga.
The SEC player of the year was scoreless through the first 12 minutes of the game. And his backcourt mate Rakym Felder drew the wrath of South Carolina coach Frank Martin, who came onto the court midway through the first half to give a piece of his mind to the freshman guard.
Thornwell averaged 25.8 points through the first four games of the tournament.
South Carolina is taking a rare approach against Gonzaga by not double teaming Przemek Karnowski.
Previous teams in the NCAA Tournament have sent double teams at the Polish big man and he picked them apart with his deft passing. The Zags made 12 of 24 from 3-point in last week's win over Xavier, many of those coming on kick-outs by Karnowski.
South Carolina has no one who can match the size of the 7-foot-1, 300-pound center, but the Gamecocks have held their ground so far.
The official who received death threats from Kentucky fans after the Elite Eight is the crew chief for the Final Four game between South Carolina and Gonzaga.
John Higgins worked last weekend's game between North Carolina and Kentucky, which the Tar Heels won 75-73. Kentucky coach John Calipari began his post-game news conference talking about fouls and Kentucky fans began harassing Higgins, who runs a roofing company in Nebraska.
The Sarpy County Sheriff's office in Nebraska said Higgins' roofing company received about 3,000 harassing emails and an unknown number of phone calls, some including death threats. The Facebook page for Higgins' company also was inundated with negative comments.
It's game time in the desert.
Gonzaga and South Carolina, both in their first Final Four, tipped off as fans poured in to cavernous University of Phoenix Stadium. Gonzaga brought an especially vocal fan contingent to cheer on the basketball-crazy school from Spokane, Washington.
The teams emerged from clouds of artificial smoke to take the court for final pre-game warmups.
The national anthem was performed by female athletes from each of the schools in the Final Four.
The game is being played in a retractable roof stadium, but the roof will be closed for the Final Four matchups.
Rock music rang out in between commercials on the giant video screen at University of Phoenix Stadium as tens of thousands of fans, paying $40 a pop just to park, filtered in for the semifinals of the Final Four.
South Carolina and Gonzaga meet in the first game, followed by Oregon against North Carolina.
Capacity for the game was more than 70,000, some far, far from the court in the upper reaches of the building. The stadium has been the scene of two Super Bowls and multiple big college football games.
But this is its first Final Four.
The NCAA Tournament is ready to carve out its finalists from among the Final Four.
South Carolina, Gonzaga, Oregon and North Carolina are the last teams standing in a March Madness field that started with 68 teams.
There are three games left to determine the 2017 champion, starting with two semifinals on Saturday night.
The first game between South Carolina and Gonzaga features a key matchup between two interior players: 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski of Gonzaga and South Carolina's Maik Kotsar, who stands at 6-10.
Oregon stands in the way of North Carolina's chance to reach the title game for a second straight year. One key for North Carolina will be the health of point guard Joel Berry II, who has been battling ankle issues but is expected to play.
The winners will play Monday night for the title.
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