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.
"I enjoyed coaching these kids, and you hate it for them. That's what it's all about," Williams said. "This is college basketball. It's not about the coaches, it's about the players."
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 against No. 13 seed Ohio, they had things back under control Sunday.
White, a 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, and North Carolina shot almost 64 percent in the first half.
But the Jayhawks cranked up the pressure defensively in the second half, and North Carolina buckled. The Tar Heels shot just 7 of 31 after halftime and had six turnovers. Kansas finished with a 41-35 rebounding edge.
"We understood what got us to this point — playing defense," Taylor said. "We stuck it out, got the stops when we needed to. Our bigs were huge on the boards. The defense was great down the stretch. That's what's going to win this thing."
The game was tied 47-all at halftime, and 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 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 Henson to give the Jayhawks a 66-61 lead.
Zeller pulled the Tar Heels within two on a putback, and Barnes hit 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 shot I was comfortable taking," Johnson said. "He took a step backward, and I made him pay for it."
Doubt the Jayhawks, and they'll prove you wrong.
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