Taylor's 22 lead KU to 80-67 win over Carolina
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By R.B. FALLSTROM
ST. LOUIS (AP) Tyshawn Taylor has yet to hit a 3-pointer in the NCAA tournament. Something about playing in domes, perhaps.
The Kansas guard did more than enough without the long-range touch that he can laugh about that 0-for-17 drought. The Jayhawks are in the Final Four, bound for the Superdome in New Orleans.
"I don't like domes. But you know what, domes love me," Taylor said after second-seeded Kansas made all the plays late in an 80-67 victory over top-seeded North Carolina in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday. "Because we won, you know.
"Is New Orleans a dome, too?"
Kansas (31-6), which picked up steam after a 7-3 start, will play Ohio State on Saturday in its first Final Four appearance since winning the 2008 national championship. No matter that oddsmakers have made them the third choice.
"I don't know if I ever enjoyed coaching a team more than this one," coach Bill Self said. "I love them. We fight, it's combative sometimes, all those things.
"But I love coaching these guys."
Taylor scored 22 points despite going 0-for-5 from 3-point range, and was all over the score sheet in the last 4 minutes with a three-point play, a steal, two rebounds and an assist on a 3-pointer. Playing with four fouls, Jeff Withey had two blocked shots in the final 2 minutes to keep the Tar Heels down.
"I knew I had to be aggressive still. If I fouled out, I fouled out," Withey said.
Kansas finished the game on a 12-0 run, holding North Carolina (32-6) without a basket in the final 5:46. The clock was still ticking when Self and North Carolina's Roy Williams met for the obligatory handshake.
Right after the buzzer, Travis Releford flung his sweatbands into the stands.
"We did it," forward Thomas Robinson said. "We took another step. We took what we had, we worked hard and it paid off. For us to make it this year, with a team nobody thought we could do it with, it's great."
After prevailing in just the 10th meeting against North Carolina, Kansas advances to play another power it has seldom seen. This will be just the ninth matchup between Ohio State and Kansas, although it's the second time this season after the Jayhawks' 78-67 victory at home on Dec. 10.
"The last time we played them they had their best player on the bench and it was a home game, so it's definitely their chance to get back at us," Taylor said. "But we feel like we didn't play our best that game, either."
Kansas was No. 13 and Ohio State was No. 2, but missing Jared Sullinger due to injury, in that game.
Self said he didn't watch much of Ohio State's victory over Syracuse on Saturday night because he was catching up on sleep he didn't get prior to the Midwest semifinals.
"We're just fortunate and happy about playing," Self said. "I'm not going to think about Ohio State until probably tomorrow. I'm going to try to enjoy this."
Whatever happens, he'll enjoy the Final Four, too.
"You know what, if you get this far, you're going to play a great team no matter what," Self said. "And they get a chance to play a pretty good team, too.
"It should be a lot of fun."
All five Kansas starters scored in double figures. Player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson had 18 points and nine rebounds, Elijah Johnson had 10 points with a key 3-pointer in the finishing run.
Reserve James Michael McAdoo had 15 points in 19 minutes with a pair of steals that led to two-hand dunks for North Carolina. Tyler Zeller had 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks in his final game and John Henson, who averages a double-double, had 10 points but just four rebounds while hampered by a sprained right ankle he had taped during the first half.
Harrison Barnes had 13 points, but just five in the second half, and also had three turnovers. Barnes was the last of the North Carolina starters to meet with reporters in a somber locker room, slumped for several minutes in his stall with a towel draped over his head.
"We had an opportunity to win that game and we didn't come through," Barnes said. "I missed a lot of shots I usually make. Big-time players come through in big-time games, and it just wasn't there tonight."
Williams faced Kansas for just the second time since leaving the school he coached for 15 seasons. He's been at North Carolina for nine years and yet the scars linger with one fan holding a sign that said, "Roy Down, 2 to Go."
North Carolina missed star point guard Kendall Marshall, out for the second straight game with a broken right wrist. Marshall ruled himself out before the game because he couldn't catch a pass, and said after the game that if the Tar Heels had made it to the Final Four he would have been ready.
"It was my decision," Marshall said. "I think I would have hurt my team more than helped them."
Stilman White had seven assists Sunday for a two-game total of 13 with no turnovers in place of Marshall, who counseled the freshman during timeouts from the bench. But White couldn't come through late when Kansas switched to a zone that sagged on the inside and dared him to shoot.
"We switched into a zone and it gave them a huge problem," Withey said. "Coach Self knows what he's doing."
The ploy seemed to confuse North Carolina.
"They switched it up on us and we couldn't figure it out. I'm still trying to figure it out," Henson said. "That's why we're sitting here now."
The schools traded baskets in an entertaining, high-octane first half that had it deadlocked at 47. North Carolina shot 64 percent and Kansas was at 56 percent, and there were only nine turnovers total.
Baskets were hard to come by the rest of the way. Kansas shot 35.5 percent but North Carolina was an abysmal 23 percent in the second half.
"We knew we had to tighten up on defense. We shut them down," Robinson said. "It feels great right now. Call me tomorrow morning and I can tell you how it feels then."
Updated March 26, 2012