At the under-4 media timeout Kansas led North Carolina 68-66 in what looked to be a Midwest regional final headed to a thrilling finish. But from that point forward the No. 2 seed Jayhawks outscored the Tar Heels 12-1, winning by the final score of 80-67.
Tyshawn Taylor led five Kansas starters in double figures with 22 points and Thomas Robinson added 18 and nine rebounds to lead Kansas to their first Final Four since the 2008 national championship season.
James Michael McAdoo led the Tar Heels with 15 points but North Carolina struggled offensively in the second half, scoring just 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Kansas tightened things up defensively with the use of the triangle-and-2.
“We were able to keep the ball out of their bigs hands and take away their two shooters,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self. “And the thing about it is, you got to rebound out of it. And you know, they’re a great rebounding team, but I thought we rebounded the ball as well as we have in a long time tonight.”
John Henson, who sprained an ankle in the first half but would return, and Tyler Zeller combined for 25 points and ten rebounds on the day. But they were outplayed in the paint down the stretch by Robinson and Jeff Withey.
Robinson and Withey combined to score 33 points and grab 17 rebounds, and as a team the Jayhawks out-rebounded North Carolina 40-30.
North Carolina went scoreless over the final 3:58 as Kansas scored the final 12 points of the game, and with Kansas taking away Henson and Zeller the Tar Heels needed a perimeter player to make plays.
“It just put their guys who are not used to scoring the ball in position to score,” said Taylor. “It confused them a little bit, and that’s just what it was. We just switched our defense up a little bit and it kind of took them out of what they wanted to run.”
That didn’t happen, and as a result it’s Kansas who will take on East Region champion Ohio State, who beat Syracuse on Saturday night.