Missing Marshall, UNC comes up short vs. Kansas

Exhaustion seemed to wash over the face of North Carolina coach

Roy Williams. His voice kept catching, his lips quivering so much

that he often had to stop mid-sentence.

It’s hard to lose deep in the NCAA tournament.

Even harder to lose to Kansas.

”There’s no way to put into words the way we feel. There’s no

way to put into words the way I feel,” Williams said finally.

”It’s the NCAA tournament. One team wins and one team loses.”

Playing without injured point guard Kendall Marshall for the

second straight game, top-seeded North Carolina was unable to

contain Tyshawn Taylor on Sunday. The senior piled up 22 points for

Kansas in an 80-67 victory that sent the Jayhawks to the Final

Four.

And the Tar Heels back to Tobacco Road.

”You hurt. You hurt for your team,” said Williams, who coached

the Jayhawks to four Final Fours. ”You hurt for these kids that

for 34, 35 minutes were part of a fantastic basketball game.

”The last four or five minutes,” he said, ”they played much,

much better than we did.”

The second-seeded Jayhawks (31-6) can finally purge from their

memory last season’s upset loss to VCU in the regional finals.

They’ll play Ohio State on Saturday in their first trip to the

Final Four since 2008, when they won the national championship.

Player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson added 18 points and

nine rebounds against the Tar Heels, and Elijah Johnson kept up his

blistering pace in the tournament with 10 points, his 3-pointer

with 3:07 to play sparking Kansas’ 12-0 run to end the game.

”We knew what we had to do and we did it,” Taylor said in the

locker room. ”That’s what it came down to: We made the plays when

we needed to.”

Jeff Withey made two monster blocks to deny the Tar Heels during

the closing run. One of them he tipped ahead to Taylor, whose

three-point play in transition made it 74-67 with 1:59 left.

The Jayhawks cruised from there.

”It was a game of runs,” Williams said. ”And we didn’t answer

the last one.”

James Michael McAdoo scored 15 for the Tar Heels (32-6), who

lost for only the third time in 12 regional final appearances – but

the second time in two years.

North Carolina went the final 5:46 without a field goal in the

Midwest Regional final, sorely missing the play of Marshall, who

Williams called ”our engine, our driver, the head of the

thing.”

He broke a bone in his right wrist last weekend against

Creighton. After surgery to insert a screw on Monday, he had the

cast removed Wednesday and finally practiced a bit on Saturday. But

he woke up sore on Sunday and it became clear that he couldn’t

play.

Marshall spent another maddening night sitting on the bench in a

suit.

”It wasn’t a toughness factor,” he said. ”It was the fact

that I couldn’t catch a pass.”

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.

Though Kansas fans have softened some, Williams was still

greeted with a chorus of boos – despite the fact that he remains so

deeply committed to the Jayhawks that he refuses to play them out

of conference. The games are simply too emotional.

At least this one went better than the first meeting, at the

2008 Final Four, where the Jayhawks walloped North Carolina on the

way to winning the title Williams never could at Kansas.

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.

”It was pretty there for a while,” Williams acknowledged.

Stilman White played well again while filling in for Marshall.

The freshman may be a ”wacko,” as Williams has said

affectionately several times the last few days, but the kid knows

how to run an offense. He had seven assists Sunday, giving him 13

for the two games without a single turnover.

The Jayhawks seemed on the verge of pulling away several times,

only to have Carolina reel them back in. But just before the midway

point of the second half, Kansas established some breathing room

when Travis Releford scored on a jumper to start an 8-2 run.

Taylor capped the spurt with a swirl-in jumper and a dunk off a

turnover by John Henson to give the Jayhawks a 66-61 lead.

”It was anyone’s game for the first 32 minutes or whatever,”

Kansas coach Bill Self said, ”and then we got consecutive

defensive stops, which we hadn’t been able to the first 30 minutes,

and made a ton of plays – individual team plays down the

stretch.”

Tyler Zeller pulled the Tar Heels within two on a putback, and

Harrison Barnes made the first of two free throws to make it 68-67

with 3:58 to play. But Johnson, shooting almost 52 percent in the

tournament, drained that 3 from NBA range to start the decisive

run.

”It was a four-point game. It quickly became nine,” said

Zeller, who had 12 points. ”Once they started making free throws,

it hit double digits and we knew time was running out.”

On the game and on their season.

White was nearly in tears in the North Carolina locker room

while the Jayhawks cut down the nets. His eyes were still puffy at

the postgame news conference, while Zeller tried to explain what

went wrong down the stretch and Williams tried to keep his own

emotions in check.

”At the end of the day, all I want to do is win and get to the

Final Four in New Orleans,” White said. ”We didn’t quite make

it.”