Surprise – Blowout City

Who saw this coming? After dismantling four teams in unprecedented fashion on it way to the school’s 16th Final Four, did anyone think the overall #1 seed in a Final Four of 1-seeds would trail 40-12 with under 7 minutes left in the first half. Thanks to an 18-0 Kansas run that’s exactly where North Carlina found itself when CBS analyst Billy Packer declared the game over. At one point in the half the vaunted Heels offense was shooting under 30%, while Kansas was shooting over 70%. Everything went the Jayhawks way early. They got every loose ball, Carolina rushed shoots, started to make mistakes leading to turnovers and easy baskets. It turned into an avalanche in the Alps, everything snowballed against the North Carolina.

Basketball is a game of runs – the old cliche goes. Well, Carolina made its run, cutting the lead to 17 by halftime, then outscored Kansas 23-8 in the first 9:44 of the second half, reversing the tables on Kansas. Suddenly Kansas, starting to feel the mounting pressure, rushed bad shots, turned the ball over and found a lid on the basket, as Carolina applied the pressure, aggressively attacking on offense, crawling back into the game on the hot hands of Danny Green and Wayne Ellington, and non-stop effort of Tyler Hansbrough.

Known for playing tight in big spots, lacking the one go-to guy that the other Final Four teams, it appears Kansas was about to fold like a chair. Off a timeout, junior Brandon Rush, who missed badly on two three point attempts during the Tar Heel blitz, answered the bell, taking hard to the basket for two to stop the bleeding. A Darnell Jackson layup off a Sherron Collins drive pushed the lead back to 8, which Kansas maintained until the 5 minute mark.

Rush answered the critics, taking over the game, scoring 7 points and dishing an assist, during a 13-0 Jayhawk run that put the game out of reach with under two minutes remaining. Stage three of this game resembled the first part, all Kansas all the time, closing the door with a 17-5 spree to win 84-66 going away.

This game never had continuity, it was marked by three prolonged one-sided stretches of play. Tempo was fast, as we expected, but both teams were sloppy, combining for 37 turnovers. Carolina shot a woeful 20% from 3-point land, only 35% from the field, and managed just 7 assists. Give credit to the Kansas defense, particularly Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kahn, who bumped and bruised Tyler Hansbrough out of the game. The Jayhawk guards managed to control Ty Lawson, something Louisville and many others failed to do. Rush, Chalmers, Robinson, and Collins forced numerous turnovers by playing aggressive defense, not allowing UNC to attack.

What promised to be an up and down, entertaining, high scoring affair, turned into an ugly battle meant more for the hardtop than the hardwood. Outside of that stretch bridging halves, the only thing worse than Carolina’s play was Roy Williams fluorescent tie. CBS may not like the ratings, but Kansas likes the result, on to Monday, where 19 turnovers will certainly not cut the mustard.

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