Kansas Jayhawks forward Thomas Robinson slaps hands with teammate Tyshawn Taylor during the seoncd half against the North Carolina Tar Heels in their men's NCAA Midwest Regional basketball game in St. Louis

Kansas pulls away late to complete Final Four field

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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.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.