Sunday, March 25, 2012

Twenty-Point Second Half Ends Tar Heels' Dance

TYSHAWN TAYLOR (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Kansas 80, NORTH CAROLINA 67 – After a fast-paced, high-scoring first half that ended tied 47-47, one team was bound to blink.

Turns out, it was the Tar Heels.

The combination of Kansas’ defense and the inability of the Tar Heels to create efficient offensive possessions without Kendall Marshall sent the Jayhawks to the Final Four and North Carolina back to Chapel Hill to start sorting out who’s going and who’s staying.

The Stillman White/Tyshawn Taylor match-up was critically important and Taylor won the match handily.  White was effective enough in the first half, but he struggled in the second half when North Carolina simply couldn’t score.  Taylor put in 22 points in his first effective performance of the tournament.  

White, to his credit, finished the game with 4 points, 7 assists and no turnovers, but the inexperienced freshman was unable to lead the Tar Heels to a needed late rally.

Four other Kansas players finished in double figures as the Jayhawks (31-6) scored the last 12 points of the game.  Player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson added 18 points and nine rebounds.

ROBINSON (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Ever-improving freshman James Michael McAdoo scored 15 for the Tar Heels, who played better without star point guard Kendall Marshall.  But top-seeded North Carolina (32-6) couldn’t overcome a 5:46 field goal drought to end the game.

Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes were unable to produce enough points to save the day as they did against Ohio.  Barnes finished with 13 points and four rebounds while Bullock scored just five.


For the game, Barnes and Bullock went a combined 1-of-10 from three-point range. Barnes, in particular, had a nightmare stay in St. Louis – he was 8-of-30 against Kansas and Ohio Tyler Zeller (12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks) and John Henson, the Heels’ second- and third-leading scorers, combined for just eight points in the second half.

Henson turned his ankle in the first half, but didn’t seemed slowed much when he returned.

Kansas used a triangle and two defense that stranded the Carolina bigs far from the basket.  When the jump shots that were falling in the first half stopped going in, the Tar Heels were doomed.


“We were able to keep the ball out of their bigs’ hands and take away their two shooters,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said.

That increased the pressure on White – whom Taylor called “Sterling” and KU center Jeff Withey referred to as “what’s his name?” – felt the pressure late, taking a couple of ill-advised shots.


UNC shot 63% in the scintillating first half, and 22.5% (7-31) in the second half.  To their further detriment, North Carolina made just 2 of 17 three-pointers.  Kudos to Bill Self and a brilliant defensive strategy that stymied the Heels in the second half.

The Jayhawks also out rebounded UNC 41 to 35.

TAYLOR (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
It was only the third loss in 12 regional final appearances for the Tar Heels, but their second straight after losing to Kentucky last year.

This was only the second time Williams had faced Kansas since leaving the school where he spent his first 15 years as a head coach, taking the Jayhawks to the NCAA title game twice—they lost in both 1991 and 2003—and two other Final Fours. Though Kansas fans have softened some—Williams was still greeted with a chorus of boos—Williams said Saturday that facing his old team will always be unpleasant.

Both teams made impressive recoveries from their ugly wins Friday night, starting on a crisp, torrid pace that had both shooting better than 56 percent at halftime.

North Carolina was playing a second straight game without the dazzling Marshall, who Williams called “our engine, our driver, the head of the thing.” But unlike Friday, when the Tar Heels turned the ball over a season-high 24 times and looked surprisingly disheveled, they had things back under control Sunday.

Ultimately, Kansas had too many weapons and too many answers on defense.

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