KANSAS CITY, Mo. – They were determined. They were pesky. They were sloppy.
But were they ever competitive.
For the first 20 minutes Sunday afternoon in the Sprint Center, the Tar Heels of the North Carolina men’s basketball team gave the No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks (31-5) all they could handle and then some.
But the Jayhawks righted the ship in the second half and rode the wave of a very pro-Jayhawk crowd to eliminate the Tar Heels 70-58.
“They took us out of everything,” Kansas coach Bill Self said about the Tar Heels’ first-half pressure. “We were so rushed and sped up and played nervous.
“Then second half, we came out and our guys competed. We were great on the glass. Of course, we had to have some individuals step up. Travis (Releford) was terrific and Jeff (Withey) was equally good.”
North Carolina (25-11) was everywhere on the defensive end in the first half. The Tar Heels picked the Jayhawks’ pockets eight times and forced 12 turnovers. UNC also held Kansas to just 25 percent shooting from the floor.
Unfortunately for North Carolina though, it couldn’t connect at a more efficient clip. At halftime, though up by nine points, the Tar Heels had made just 26 percent of their attempts.
“I thought we were both ugly on the offensive end in the first half,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “But we were swarming so much defensively we were able to get some fast-break opportunities, had a nine-point lead at halftime.”