Any March Madness game decided in the final seconds is going to bring reactions of equal strength but opposite emotion, with one on the losing side that’s often hard to watch. Last week, it was De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky, and last night, it was Jordan Bell of Oregon.
With 5.8 seconds remaining and UNC in the bonus and up by one point, Tar Heel senior Kennedy Meeks missed two free throws in a row. Bell was positioned to grab the rebound as the second clanked off the rim, but Theo Pinson got there first and got Carolina the ball back—forcing Oregon to foul again, now with just four seconds left. Joel Berry II missed both of his free throws, just as Meeks had, and Bell had another chance to rebound. But he couldn’t box out, and Meeks beat him for the ball. UNC drained the clock, and that was the game.
It’s a tough way to lose, and Bell blamed himself:
“You play your ass off all season, but in the game that matters and in the moment that matters, I didn’t do my job,’’ he later said. “This is going to hurt forever.’’ His teammates were quick to say that he shouldn’t be shouldering any of the blame alone—his rebound attempts were the biggest what if moments of the final seconds, yes, but there were plenty of other plays and missed opportunities for the team that came before them—but it’s clear to see why we he naturally would, and it’s not an easy thing to watch.
UNC plays Gonzaga for the title on Monday night.