North Carolina got a valiant effort from freshman Stilman White on Sunday, but the Tar Heels simply couldn’t overcome not having Kendall Marshall available and fell to Kansas 80-67 in the Midwest Regional final.
UNC was neck and neck with the Jayhawks at halftime tied at 47-47. But Kansas slowed the game some in the second half and was smarter defensively and eventually closed on a 12-0 run.
Despite not having its most important player, Carolina had chances, but Harrison Barnes (13 points on 5-for-14 shooting) failed to rise up once again, and Kansas’ front line out-dueled UNC’s.
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Kansas improved to 31-6 on the season and will play Ohio State next Saturday in the Final Four, while UNC’s season ends at 32-6.
Here are both teams’ grades for their performances Sunday evening:
Kansas offense: Kansas shot 46 percent from the floor, including 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range, which was enough. The Jayhawks did a nice job getting good looks in both halves and got to the line twice as often UNC, attempting 24 free throws to Carolina’s 12. All five starters scored in double figures, led by Tyshawn Taylor’s 22 points. He came out of a slump at exactly the right time. Grade: B.
UNC offense: The Tar Heels hit darn near everything they tossed toward the basket in the first half but couldn’t buy a bucket after the intermission, closing the game converting just 2 of their final 19 field goal attempts. UNC had success in the first half because KU was playing fast and the pace allowed Heels to more easily get open looks and for UNC to take advantage of its speed approach. But Kansas slowed it down in the second half to more of a grind. UNC scored 47 points in the first half and just 20 in the second, including just on point over the game’s final 5:30. With respect to White, who didn’t have a turnover all weekend, it was painfully obvious in the second half how much UNC missed Marshall. The offense UNC ran was completely different than it was with Marshall, and the lack of quality looks bears that out. Grade: C-.
Kansas defense: The Jayhawks inexplicably tried to run with UNC in the first half and it played into the Tar Heels’ strengths. It made life so much easier for Carolina to get passing lanes and find them, completing plays. But once KU changed to pack it in some more in the second half slowing the pace it dominated Carolina. Kansas could have won by a much larger margin had it played that way from the start. Grade: B.
UNC defense: Carolina allowed too much dribble penetration, didn’t box out well enough, and allowed some open perimeter shots in which Kansas managed to knock down a few. But UNC also did some really nice things, especially playing physically in the paint. But Kansas did shoot 46 percent from the floor, thus UNC wasn’t as strong defensively as it had been. Grade: C-.
Kansas intangibles: The Jayhawks have battled some adversity this season, too, plus Bill Self made the right adjustments in how to defense UNC in the second half and by slowing the pace some. It forced White to have to be more of a floor general, which he simply isn’t, yet, and it made UNC’s bigs move away from the basket just to get touches. Kansas also fought hard, outrebounded the best rebounding team in the nation, and got a big game from a senior who had been struggling. Grade: A.
UNC intangibles: Williams did an amazing job getting his team ready and to play well considering what it was up against. It wasn’t just that Carolina didn’t have Marshall, it was without its entire backcourt from last year’s NCAA Tournament, all of whom returned to school. Plus, Reggie Bullock re-injured the knee that forced him to miss last year’s tournament, and John Henson, who was already playing with a sprained wrist, sprained his ankle in the first half, as well. UNC wasn’t pretty, but anyone that says the Tar Heels aren’t tough and that Williams can’t is either ignorant or they are lying. Grade: A.