For 20 minutes, the Kansas offense was about as bad as it has been all season. The Jayhawks shot just 7 of 28 from the field in the first half, including 0 of 6 from three-point land, and turned the ball over 12 times in the opening frame. Then, the bell rang to start the second half, and everything changed for KU, as they exploded for a 29-7 run coming out of the locker room, grabbed a 50-38 lead, and cruised to a 70-58 victory.
Travis Releford and Jeff Withey (both seniors) keyed the attack for the Jayhawks in the second half, and they were clearly the best two players on the court for most of (if not all of) the game. Releford had one of the best games of his career while playing in his hometown of Kansas City, scoring 22 points on 9-13 shooting, grabbing 8 rebounds, and playing high-end defense on the other end. Withey manned the painted area for KU, as the 7-footer dominated the glass to the tune of 16 boards, and seemingly changed every shot that UNC attempted in the lane while finishing with 5 blocks.
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For UNC, it was simply a tale of missed opportunity and poor offensive execution. The Tar Heels led by 9 points at the half, but it could have been a much bigger lead (as they themselves shot only 11-42 in the first half), and once the Kansas offense awakened, it was all but over. They were facing the nation’s #1 field-goal percentage defense (Kansas allowed just 36% on the season), but North Carolina also didn’t help themselves with some woeful shot selection from PJ Hairston (who finished 6-for-17), and a brutal night from their only interior option in James Michael McAdoo (5-for-19). In the end, it’s almost impossible to win when a team shoots 30% from the field, and the Tar Heels dug a hole that they couldn’t climb out of, even while forcing 23 turnovers.
One shocking development for Kansas stemmed from the fact that their undisputed “most talented” player, Ben McLemore (who will be a top-5 NBA draft pick), finished with exactly 2 points on the night while shooting 0-for-9 from the field. On one hand, it shows the versatility on talent of KU, but on the other hand, they will certainly need McLemore to play at a high level to make a national championship-type run.
Kansas moves on to Arlington, Texas to square off with No. 4-seeded Michigan in the Sweet 16, and that will be one of the most anticipated match-ups of the tournament. The Jayhawks haven’t been the model of consistency during the tournament (or really, the whole season), but much of the same could be said for Michigan, and if both teams play their “A-game”, it’ll be an incredibly entertaining basketball game.
Be sure to stay tuned to FanSided.com throughout the entire tournament as we keep you up to date with the latest results.