Athletes endure highs and lows during their careers, but Oregon’s Jordan Bell felt the lowest of the latter on Saturday night when he took the blame for his team’s 77-76 loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Final Four.
The Ducks had two chances to grab boards with fewer than six seconds left and their team failed on both opportunities to secure the rebound.
Bell was pointed out as the biggest reason for the miscue when replays showed he struggled to box out his man both times.
After the game, an emotional Bell apologized for the errors and put the blame solely on himself.
“If I would have just boxed out, I had two opportunities to do it,” Bell said through tears. “I missed both of them. We lost the game because of it.”
It seems unfair to point the finger completely at Bell, especially given the outstanding performance he displayed earlier in the game.
He had a game-high 16 rebounds to go with 13 points and four blocks and was a huge part of the reason Oregon was in the game in the first place.
And Bell was far from the only Duck who had trouble boxing out.
The Tar Heels finished with 43 boards, matching their 43.4 boards per game season average which was the most in the country. Seventeen of those rebounds were on the offensive end.
Oregon, which started the tournament as a three-seed and hadn’t been to the Final Four in 78 years, made a huge run late to make things competitive against the favored Tar Heels.
Down six points with fewer than 45 seconds left in regulation, the Ducks’ bracket run seemed all but over, but consecutive buckets pulled Oregon within one point with 5.8 seconds left.
An intentional foul sent the Tar Heels’ Kennedy Meeks to the line with a chance to extend North Carolina’s lead but he missed both free throws. Oregon’s hustled for the rebound but the ball was kicked out to the top of the key where Joel Berry II was standing.
The Ducks were forced to foul again sending Berry and his 80.8 season free throw percentage to the line.
Uncharacteristically, Berry also missed both of his free throws but Meeks’ rebound secured a berth in the National Championship game for North Carolina:
In a team game, it’s often difficult to point fingers at a single player for a team’s loss.
It should be noted that the Ducks would have never been in the Final Four if not for Bell, rather than that they lost because of him.
Bell finished with a double-double in four of the five games Oregon played in the tournament this year.
“You play your a** off all season, but in the game that matters and in the moment that matters, I didn’t do my job,” Bell said. “This is going to hurt forever.”
North Carolina will now play Gonzaga for the national title on Monday night.