Kansas Downs North Carolina To Advance To NCAA Title Game

April 5, 2008

Box Score | Quotes | Notes |

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<?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Brandon Rush exploded for 25 points to lead the University of Kansas men’s basketball team to an 84-66 win over North Carolina and a trip to the NCAA National Championship game Saturday night at the Alamodome. The stands were rocking as Kansas saw its 28-point lead trimmed to four. But in crunch time, the Jayhawks hit big shot after big shot to preserve the victory.

A crowd of 43,718 saw Kansas (36-3) capture its school-record 36th win and North Carolina end its season with a identical 36-3 record.

No shot was bigger than, when leading by five with just over five minutes left, Sherron Collins drilled a three from the top of the key to push the lead to eight. UNC guard Wayne Ellington answered with a two on the other end, but Brandon Rush countered to keep the lead at eight and North Carolina called timeout with 4:47 ticks left.

When play resumed, Rush lobbed to Jackson to go up 10. Another lay up from Jackson gave KU a 12 point lead. With the lead in double-digits Rush closed the door on any attempt at a UNC comeback, as he personally outscored the Tar Heels 8-5 in the final three minutes.

To open the game, the two teams traded baskets before Kansas built a 9-6 lead three minutes in. From that point in the first half, Kansas dominated the next 10 minutes outscoring North Carolina 31-6 – including an 18-0 run – to go up 40-12 with 6:47 on the clock.

UNC countered with a 15-4 run to end the half and the score was 44-27 at the break.

Throughout the first period the Jayhawks thrived on defense. While both teams committed 10 turnovers, KU was able to force the issue with seven steals while North Carolina benefitted by drawing four charges on Jayhawk drives to the hole.

Kansas added five blocks in the first half including three from Cole Aldrich, who was one of the biggest keys to KU’s first half success. With Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun on the bench with two fouls each, Aldrich stepped in to play 13 minutes in the half and he tallied six points, six rebounds and a steal to go with his three rejections.

Overall seven Jayhawks scored in the first period paced by Brandon Rush with 12 points to lead all scorers. Darrell Arthur, who got Kansas off to a strong start with three early buckets, added six points, four boards and two blocks.

For UNC, Tyler Hansbrough led the way with 10 points and five rebounds in the first period. Kansas shot 54.5 percent from the floor compared to 29 percent from UNC and out-rebounded the Tar Heels 23-15.

Kansas led the entire first half with the exception 18 seconds when the game was tied at two. The Jayhawks enjoyed their biggest lead of 28 when the score was 40-12 at the 6:48 mark.

After the break, North Carolina turned up the pressure and started heating up on the offensive end. Kansas continued to score but nevertheless UNC was able to slowly chip away at KU’s large halftime lead, and beginning at the 16:30 mark went on a 13-0 run over five-plus minutes to cut the lead to 54-50 in favor of the Jayhawks.

But Kansas did not break, and just as the Tar Heels had slowly chipped away at the lead, the Jayhawks started to slowly extend its lead back. By the 4:30 mark, Kansas got the lead back to 10 at 71-61 with contributions coming from everyone. Kansas got buckets from Rush, Jackson, Aldrich, Kaun and Collins. Kansas reclaimed its double-digit advantage on a vicious alley-oop from Rush to Jackson and coasted from there for the final 84-66 win.

Rush’s 25 points led all scorers. The Kansas City junior added seven rebounds, two assists and a block in 32 minutes. Jackson was strong with 12 points, four boards, two assists and two steals. Chalmers and Collins each contributed 11 points. Arthur pulled down nine boards and notably stayed out of foul trouble as Jackson and Kaun each were limited due to fouls. Aldrich logged 17 big minutes and totaled eight points, seven rebounds and a steal to go with a career-high four blocked shots.

Ellington led the Tar Heels with 18 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Hansbrough finished with 17 points and nine boards. Danny Green added 15 points.

Kansas shot 53.1 percent from the field compared to 35.8 percent for UNC. The Jayhawks outworked the Tar Heels in the paint, outscoring UNC 50-30 in the lane and owning a 42-33 rebounding advantage.

Kansas returns to the NCAA title game for the first time since 2003 and the eighth time in school history. The Jayhawks face the Memphis Tigers, who upended UCLA 78-63 in the first semifinal of the night. Gametime on CBS is set for Monday, April 7 at 8:21 p.m.