Jayhawks Advance To Final Four With 80-67 Win Over North Carolina
March 25, 2012
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Kansas got dominant performances from its star duo of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson and defeated North Carolina 80-67 en route to advancing to NCAA Final Four for the 14th time in program history and the second time under head coach Bill Self. The Jayhawks advance to New Orleans, making their first trip to the Final Four since winning the National Title in 2008.
For Robinson who had 18 points and nine rebounds, it was another routine performance. But for Taylor Sunday’s outing was a bit of a breakout after the senior had struggled offensively in KU’s three previous tournament wins. Taylor broke out in a big way, leading Kansas with 22 points, six rebounds, five steals and five assists.
A senior from Hoboken, N.J., Taylor made 10-of-19 shots from the field on his way to his 22 points. He had scored just 26 points in Kansas’ first three NCAA Tournament games combined.
The duo was joined by Jeff Withey on the Midwest Region All-Tournament team, with Robinson taking home Most Outstanding Player honors.
Kansas was clinging to a one point lead with 3:58 remaining after UNC’s Harrison Barnes knocked down one of two foul shots following the final media timeout of the game. But the Tar Heels would not score again. Kansas finished the game on a 12-0 run fueled by the defense, most notably Withey who had two blocks during the stretch.
After a blazing hot opening first half from both teams, the Kansas defense held UNC to just 22.6 percent shooting from the field in the second half–the lowest ever for a KU opponent in NCAA Tournament action. The Jayhawks switched to a zone defense midway through the second period which really seemed to slow down the Carolina offense. Despite UNC’s offensive struggles, KU could never quite pull away.
The Jayhawks raced out to a seven point lead in the opening two minutes of the second half as the Tar Heels missed their first four shots of the second period. But just as the opening half of play went, UNC came right back with a 6-0 run of its own to trim the lead right back down to one point at 54-53 off a dunk from John Henson.
Following a Kansas timeout, Withey scored down low and Taylor added a steal and a lay up to push the lead back to five points. The lead was not safe though as North Carolina again scored six-straight points. Travis Releford stopped the run with a back door layup off an assist from Kevin Young. From that point on the scoring slowed down considerably as each team struggled from the field.
James Michael McAdoo hit to foul shots for UNC with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game to give the Tar Heels a 61-60 lead, but it would be the last lead of the game for Roy Williams’ squad. KU answered back with a pair of foul shots from Robinson and extended its lead to five points after back-to-back shots from Taylor.
Carolina inched back to within one point of the Jayhawks on Barnes’ foul shot, but a three-point shot from Elijah Johnson would start the final 12-0 run for Kansas. Taylor followed with a layup and a free throw and then Releford added a dunk to put the game basically out of reach.
Withey, Releford and Johnson each finished the game in double-figures for Kansas. Withey had 15 points, eight boards and three blocks. Releford added 11 points and two steals, while Johnson contributed 10 points and five assists. Young gave Kansas eight caroms and two points off the bench.
KU finished the game shooting 46.0 percent from field, hitting 29-of-63 shots. Kansas won the battle on the boards, edging North Carolina 41-36 in rebounding. Kansas also edged UNC in points in the paint, scoring 40 to UNC’s 36.
UNC, which had shot 63.6 percent from the floor in the first half, finished the game hitting at a 43.8 percent clip due to the stingy second-half Kansas defense. The Jayhawk defense was especially stout on the perimeter, limiting the Tar Heels to 2-of-17 from three.
McAdoo led four North Carolina players in double figures with 15 points. Barnes finished with 13 and Tyler Zeller had 12, eight of which came in the game’s first 10 minutes of play. Henson dropped in 10 points, while Reggie Bullock led UNC on the boards with seven caroms. Stillman White finished with seven assists and four points as he replaced the injured Kendall Marshall at the point guard position for UNC.
From the opening tip both offenses executed at a high level. North Carolina started off with two quick buckets taking a 4-0 lead with a Zeller basket down low. Unlike its last two outings, Kansas did not waste any time coming with a counter punch on offense.
Releford got KU started with a foul shot. Taylor then hit a jumper and Withey quickly followed with layup and a free throw to forge a 6-4 Jayhawk lead with 17:40 left to play in the opening frame.
Over the next five minutes of action the two teams went blow for blow trading baskets and lighting up the scoreboard. With Kansas holding a 19-16 advantage following two free throws from Young, North Carolina reeled off five straight points to reclaim the lead off a dunk from McAdoo at the 12:52 mark.
KU answered with a reverse lay in from Taylor, but McAdoo came right back with a jumper from the baseline. Two foul shots from Withey again knotted the score at 23 a piece, but McAdoo was there again for UNC and the Tar Heels then got a free throw from P.J. Hairston to push their lead to three at 26-23 with just over 11 minutes left in the opening period.
Travis Releford knocked down a three for Kansas to tie the score again, but McAdoo got a steal and a dunk to push Carolina back in the lead at 28-26. Thomas Robinson threw down a dunk to answer for Kansas. Robinson got an assist from Taylor who stole the ball following his own missed free throw and tapped the ball to Robinson who slammed it home for Kansas.
Bullock drilled a three for UNC on its next possession and then Taylor found Robinson trailing and passed it to the big man who knocked down a three from the top of the key, marking just his seventh three of the season.
Kansas then went on a 9-2 scoring run over the next three plus minutes to take the largest lead of the first half at 40-33 off a baseline jumper from Taylor. Taylor hit back-to-back jumpers to cap the run.
Barnes then found his rhythm for UNC getting two-straight dunks and a jumper helping lead the Tar Heels back to a 41-40 lead with just under two minutes to play in the half. Justin Wesley got a tip on the offensive end to end the scoring drought for Kansas, but John Henson immediately followed with a jumper over Wesley to again give UNC the lead at 43-42 with 1:34 to play before intermission.
Taylor came back for KU, hitting and jumper in the lane and getting a free throw, but as was par for the course in the opening frame, Barnes answered right back for UNC with a fadeaway shot from the foul line to again knot the score.
White gave UNC a 47-45 lead off of two foul shots and Carolina got the ball back after a missed three by Taylor. The Tar Heels called a timeout to set up their final play of the half, but Johnson took the ball from Barnes and raced to the other end for a layup and both teams went to the half having scored 47 points.
The high scoring first half was a result of both teams knocking down shots as Kansas made 56.3 percent from the floor and UNC was even better at 63.6 percent. The only place either team struggled was from long range as KU made 3-of-8 from downtown and UNC hit 2-of-7 in the first half.
Kansas will now turn its attention to Ohio State for a Saturday evening matchup in National Semifinals. The Jayhawks, who have appeared in each of the last three Final Fours hosted by the city of New Orleans, defeated the Buckeyes 78-67 in Lawrence on Dec. 10.