GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Oregon's Jordan Bell took the blame for the Ducks' 77-76 loss to North Carolina in the national semifinals Saturday night, saying his inability to box out the Tar Heels in the waning seconds cost his team a chance at a championship.
"If I had just boxed out ... I had two opportunities,'' Bell said. "People can tell me whatever they want, but I lost the game for us.''
With tears still streaming down his face, Bell -- huddled in the depths of his locker and barely talking above a whisper -- recounted the last two plays of the game. With 5.8 seconds left and in the bonus, UNC senior Kennedy Meeks missed two free throws, with the second clanking off the front of the rim. Bell reached up and got his hand on the back of the ball, but the Tar Heels' Theo Pinson outjumped him, tapping the ball back out and giving UNC another possession.
Forced to foul again, Oregon wrapped up Joel Berry II and sent him to the line with four seconds remaining. The junior, an 81 percent free throw shooter, also missed both. Bell appeared to corral the second off the backboard, but Meeks wrestled it away from him, allowing the Tar Heels to drain the clock and advance to the national title game against Gonzaga.
"He just took it from me,'' Bell said of Meeks. "I hit him and went for him, instead of holding onto the ball. We talk about it all the time because it happens all the time.''
I am so sorry....— Jordan Bell (@1jordanbell) April 2, 2017
Bell's miscues were hardly the only mistakes the Ducks made. A team that stakes its claim on driving to the hoop instead launched 3-pointer after 3-pointer and didn't stop the outside bombardment, despite the fact that the shots weren't falling. Oregon shot just 26 percent from behind the arc.
The Ducks also committed 16 turnovers, which gave North Carolina, a team that lives off transition points, 20 easy ones.
That was the message Bell's teammates and coach Dana Altman delivered to him in the postgame locker room: Oregon made plenty of mistakes during the course of the game, and no one player lost it.
"Right now he's gonna feel that way, like he cost us, but over time, that will heal,'' sophomore Tyler Dorsey said. "He didn't lose the game for us. Everyone could have done more.''
They also pointed out that without Bell's elevated play in this NCAA tournament since Chris Boucher went down with a knee injury in early March, Oregon wouldn't have made it to the Final Four. Over the Ducks' five tourney games, Bell averaged 12.5 points and 13.2 rebounds per game, including 16 against the Tar Heels.
"Jordan felt terrible,'' Altman said. "But I told him, 'Buddy, you got 16 rebounds. We wouldn't have been in this position if it hadn't been for you.'"
Bell said he isn't so sure he will heal anytime soon.
"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 said. "This is going to hurt forever.''