The sequence that vacillated between hope and despair, a crowd of 77,612 disbelieving what was unfolding one way or the other, started with an outstretched hand.
Oregon’s Jordan Bell held the position but North Carolina’s Theo Pinson had the moxie. The Ducks trailed the Tar Heels by one point in an NCAA tournament semifinal Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium and needed to grab a missed free throw and go the length of the court with only 5.8 seconds left.
Pinson timed his jump perfectly after teammate Kennedy Meeks’ free throw bounced off the front of the rim, tapping the ball to North Carolina guard Joel Berry II. The Ducks quickly wrapped up Berry, who missed his first free throw. And then his second.
College roommates often tell each other just about every thought, no matter how outlandish, assuming it will stay among friends. That confidence code apparently doesn’t apply to Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss, who freely disclosed what Zach Collins had expressed Saturday before the biggest game of their careers.
“He said, ‘Look, I wouldn’t want to be playing against me today,’ ” Williams-Goss said. “I looked at him and I said, ‘All right, let’s do it then.’ ”
They did it as one, Williams-Goss controlling the game with his shotmaking and Collins contributing across the board to help their tiny school come up big in a battle of Final Four newcomers.
Luke Maye’s aspirations for the game’s final sequence matched his pedigree. A bit player for most of his career, the onetime walk-on forward figured maybe he could put himself in position to grab a rebound.
He ended up nudging North Carolina back into the Final Four.
As Tar Heels teammate Theo Pinson drove into the lane, cutting off two Kentucky defenders with the score tied in the closing seconds Sunday evening at FedExForum, Maye backpedaled toward the perimeter. Pinson flipped the ball to Maye, who rose for a jumper that fell through the net and into North Carolina lore.
Oregon’s Jordan Bell is a mild-mannered forward from Long Beach Poly who has a curious effect on opponents on the basketball court. Eyes widen. Limbs stiffen. The body does things the brain does not want.
With nine minutes left in Oregon’s program-quaking, 74-60, win over No. 1 seeded Kansas that sent the Ducks to the Final Four on Saturday, Bell elicited only one palpable emotion: abject fear.
Oregon was up 13 but looked shaky on offense. A heavy pro-Kansas crowd was latching to any signs of life when Landen Lucas, the Jayhawks’ 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward, raced alone toward the basket. He soared. Bell appeared from behind like a boogeyman. He rejected the layup, hard, his hand somewhere near the square on the backboard.
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier, 83-59, on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.
Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.
On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.
Chris Chiozza went end to end and made a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Florida an 84-83 victory against Wisconsin on Friday night in the first overtime game of this NCAA Tournament.
Nigel Hayes had given the Badgers (27-10) a 2-point lead with four seconds left on two free throws. With no timeouts left, the Gators inbounded to Chiozza and the point guard stopped right at the top of the arc and dropped in the winner for Florida (27-8).
Wisconsin's Zak Showalter forced overtime with a leaning 3-pointer off one leg with 2.1 seconds left in regulation as the Badgers wiped out a 12-point deficit in the last 4:15.
The nation’s highest-scoring team found out what it felt like to get overrun at the worst possible time.
UCLA was trampled in the second half Friday night, its star freshmen unable to keep pace with their Kentucky counterparts. Now the Wildcats will move on while at least two Bruins may play their next games in the NBA.
The third-seeded Bruins were no match for the second-seeded Wildcats in a rematch between the teams, an 86-75 setback in an NCAA tournament South Regional semifinal ending their season far short of the intended destination.