ST. LOUIS – Nothing personal, Roy.
Tyshawn Taylor broke out of his slump in a big way Sunday, scoring 22 points and leading Kansas back to the Final Four with an 80-67 victory over former coach Roy Williams and top-seeded North Carolina.
The second-seeded Jayhawks (31-6) will play Ohio State on Saturday in their first Final Four appearance since winning the 2008 national championship.
“It’s awesome,” center Jeff Withey said. “There’s no better feeling than this right now.”
And how’s this for symmetry? Kansas began this year’s tournament in Omaha, Neb., the same place as four years ago.
As the game ended, Taylor – much maligned for his shooting struggles during the first three games of the NCAA tournament – ran to Kansas fans and raised both arms in the air. Travis Releford tossed his sweatbands into the crowd.
“This is what you come to Kansas for,” Taylor said. “It’s a great feeling, but it’s just one step.”
Taylor led five Jayhawks in double figures. Player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson added 18 points and nine rebounds, and Elijah Johnson kept up his blistering pace in the tournament with 10 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:07 to play that sparked Kansas’ 12-0 run to end the game. Withey made two monster blocks to deny the Tar Heels during the final run – including one that set up a big three-point play by Taylor.
Taylor came up with the rebound after Withey swatted away a shot by John Henson and streaked downcourt for a layup, getting fouled by Stilman White in the process. As the Kansas-heavy crowd roared, Taylor butted his head into Robinson’s chest. He made the free throw to give Kansas a 74-67 lead with 1:59 left, and the Jayhawks cruised from there.
“There’s no way to put into words the way we feel,” Williams said. “There’s no way to put into words the way I feel. … It’s the NCAA tournament. One team wins and one team loses, and that’s what we have to understand.”
James Michael McAdoo scored 15 for the Tar Heels (32-6), who played better in their second game without injured star point guard Kendall Marshall. But North Carolina couldn’t overcome a 5:46 field goal drought to end the Midwest Regional final.
It was only the third defeat in 12 regional final appearances for the Tar Heels, but their second straight after losing to Kentucky last year.