The No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks beat No. 1 North Carolina by 13 points in the NCAA tournament Midwest Regional Final on Sunday, 80-67.
The last trip Kansas took to the Final Four was in 2008, when they won the whole enchilada. They’ll be looking to repeat history and move closer to the national championship next weekend when they face No. 2 Ohio State, who similarly beat No. 1 Syracuse in the East Regional Final on Saturday.
The game was rather evenly spread out among the offense – no double doubles from either team. However, five Jayhawks scored in the double digits: Travis Releford, 11, Elijah Johnson, 10, Thomas Robinson, 18, Jeff Withey, 15, Tyshawn Taylor, 22 (Someone got out of his slump when it mattered most…)
Four Tarheels were in double figures as well: Harrison Barnes, 13, Tyler Zeller, 12, John Henson, 10, James Michael McAdoo, 15.
The first half was a great game that was close throughout. Everyone gave a strong performance and they entered the half tied 47-47. Kansas coach Bill Self thought both teams looked loose and relaxed and was impressed with the Tarheels shooting 64 percent shooting against them. He felt his team needed to play inside out and tighten the screws a bit for the second half. That they did.
The Jayhawks top blocker, Jeff Withey, was able to keep the Tarheels at bay. The 7-footer who built a lot of his blocking skills playing volleyball as a kid, had a 7” growth spurt in one year during junior high, putting my personal 2.5” record to shame. (Hence I cheer, follow, and write instead of play.) He’d likely be able to knock a hot air balloon out of the sky.
The Tarheels were able to keep it a one-point game up until the last four minutes. But a series of steals and layups by Taylor and a 3-pointers by Johnson put the Jayhawks ahead by seven with just under two minutes to go.
Another monster Withey block and a Releford layup gave Kansas a nine point edge, making the score 76-67.
Kansas' defense really came to town, and the Jayhawks cruised into finishing the game with 12 unanswered points. Fans in the stands held signs reading: “We’re not in Kansas anymore. WE’RE IN NEW ORLEANS!!”–where the Final Four will tip off next weekend.
North Carolina: 67
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS