KU heading to Elite Eight after victory over NC State - KCTV5

KU heading to Elite Eight after victory over NC State

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© Alan Shope/KCTV5 © Alan Shope/KCTV5

The University of Kansas Jayhawks beat North Carolina State 60-57 Friday night in St. Louis.

The Jayhawks will play in the Elite Eight on Sunday. Their opponent will be the North Carolina Tarheels, led by former KU coach Roy Williams.

The game will begin at 4:05 p.m. and will air on KCTV5.

Coach Bill Self said he was proud of his players and how they fought hard "to eke out a win."

KU and UNC have played just once since Williams left Lawrence. KU beat UNC in the Final Four on their way to winning the national championship over Memphis in 2008.

In Friday's win, Thomas Robinson had 18 points and 15 rebounds, Jeff Withey blocked 10 shots to finish one shy of the NCAA tournament record, and No. 2 seed Kansas held on to beat North Carolina State 60-57 Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

The Jayhawks (30-6) advanced to play top-seeded North Carolina for a spot in the Final Four when Richard Howell's off-balanced heave at the buzzer came up well short.

Elijah Johnson added 11 points for the Jayhawks, including a layup off an inbound pass from Tyshawn Taylor with 13.5 seconds remaining that gave them a calming cushion.

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried called a timeout to set up a play, but Scott Wood stepped out of bounds while fielding a cross-court pass with 5 seconds left that kept one of the nation's best 3-point shooters from getting off a shot.

C.J. Leslie had 18 points for the Wolfpack (24-13), despite sitting much of the second half with four fouls. Wood finished with 12 points on 2-for-10 shooting.

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - All the upstarts are headed home. It comes down to North Carolina and Kansas, the bluest of the bluebloods, for a spot in the Final Four.

Thomas Robinson had 18 points and 15 rebounds, Jeff Withey blocked 10 shots to finish one shy of the NCAA tournament record, and the second-seeded Jayhawks held off No. 11 seed North Carolina State 60-57 in the Midwest Regional semifinals Friday night.

The top-seeded Tar Heels escaped with a 73-65 overtime win over No. 13 seed Ohio earlier in the night, setting up a Sunday showdown between the Jayhawks and North Carolina, led by former coach Roy Williams.

Kansas (30-6) squandered an eight-point lead in the final few minutes, and didn't wrap up the win until Richard Howell's off-balance heave at the buzzer came up well short.

The Jayhawks poured off the bench to celebrate, while coach Bill Self seemed to slump his shoulders in exhaustion. He then headed for the scorer's table to shake hands with N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried, who needed only one season to turn around the Wolfpack.

C.J. Leslie had 18 points to lead N.C. State (24-13), despite sitting much of the second half with four fouls. Scott Wood finished with 12 points on 2-for-10 shooting, though his biggest mistake wasn't a missed shot but the shot he never even got to attempt.

N.C. State had pulled within 58-57 on a transition layup by C.J. Williams with just over a minute remaining. The teams swapped possessions before Kansas managed to get a layup from Elijah Johnson off an inbound pass from Tyshawn Taylor with 13.5 seconds remaining.

The Wolfpack crossed midcourt and called a timeout to set up a play, which was designed to get the ball to Wood off a skip pass in the corner. But the sharpshooter stepped out of bounds when he tried to pull in the high pass, giving the ball back to Kansas with 5 seconds remaining.

Robinson was fouled and missed the free throw at the other end, and after a heave three-quarters of the way down court, Howell's tightly guarded shot at the buzzer came up nowhere close.

Johnson finished with 11 points for the Jayhawks, who advanced despite a miserable performance by Taylor at the point. Their second-leading scorer was held to six points on 2-for-14 shooting, missing all six of his 3-point attempts.

Kansas was just 1 for 14 from beyond the arc as a team.

The Wolfpack took a page from Purdue's playbook over the first eight minutes, using constant double teams on Robinson inside and forcing Kansas to settle for jump shots.

It didn't happen, at least early on.

Just as they did against the Boilermakers last weekend, the Jayhawks appeared sloppy and disinterested. Leslie took advantage by scoring five of his 12 first-half points during an opening salvo, and C.J. Williams' 3-pointer gave the Wolfpack a 17-11 lead - their biggest of the half.

Kansas eventually clawed back, relying on defense during a 12-0 run.

Withey provided most of it inside with seven blocks in the first half. A couple of them allowed the Jayhawks to get into transition, where they're at their best, and by the time Taylor scored with 7:10 left in the half, Kansas had pulled into a 23-17 lead.

Leslie provided an answer with back-to-back baskets for N.C. State, and his bucket on the heels of a 3-pointer by Scott Wood gave the Wolfpack a 33-32 lead at the break.

They wouldn't lead again.

Elijah Johnson, who provided the big shots that allowed Kansas to reach St. Louis, hit his first 3-pointer of the game out of halftime. It was the start of a 12-2 run during which Leslie was forced to the bench with four fouls and nearly 16 minutes still on the clock.

Kansas extended the lead to 50-40 when Taylor lobbed a pass to Withey for an alley-oop dunk, and a partisan crowd inside the Edward Jones Dome roared in approval.

Leslie finally checked back in with less than 7 minutes left, giving N.C. State a brief boost. But moments later he was back on the floor beside the bench as trainers worked on what appeared to be a cramp in his leg, and Kansas took advantage by pounding away inside.

The Jayhawks managed to coax the lead to 58-50 with just over 3 minutes remaining, and then held on during a furious stretch to finish the game, advancing to the regional finals for the fifth time in the past six years.

Earlier:

By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Tyshawn Taylor and the rest of the Kansas Jayhawks know better than to focus on seeds this time of year. Especially when it comes to those nasty No. 11s.

It was exactly one year ago that their bracket seemed to be opening up nicely for another Final Four run. The fourth and fifth seeds in their region went down in the second round, and the second and third quickly followed them out. That left VCU standing in the top-seeded Jayhawks' way.

The scrappy No. 11 seeds wound up advancing to Houston.

Kansas wound up heading home.

"I've been saying all along, seeds don't matter at this point," Taylor said Thursday, on the eve of the second-seeded Jayhawks' Midwest Regional semifinal against No. 11 seed North Carolina State.

"That team is capable of being a three or four seed," Taylor added. "They didn't have the best out-of-conference record, or even conference, but they're a good team and they won some big games. It's going to be a tough challenge for us. They're going to come ready to play."

Just like the Rams last year. And another lower seed, Northern Iowa, the year before that.

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Kansas (29-6) hasn't played a team seeded better than No. 9 since falling to second-seeded Michigan State in the Midwest Regional semifinals three years ago. That includes a blowout victory over No. 15 seed Detroit and a nip-and-tuck tussle with No. 10 seed Purdue last weekend.

"You can't think of seeds," said Connor Teahan, the lone remaining player from the 2008 title team. "Obviously the last two years the way we've been knocked out -- what was VCU last year?"

It was a rhetorical question. Not a soul in the Kansas locker room at the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday afternoon needed to be reminded what VCU was seeded.

Just like they all know what number is attached to N.C. State.

"They're playing really, really well," Teahan said. "They're not going to be intimidated by us, so we're not going to be focused in on their seed at all."

The Wolfpack (24-12) barely got into the tournament after a four-game losing streak late in their ACC schedule. They needed a strong run to the semifinals of their conference tournament even to have the chance to sweat out Selection Sunday.

Sweat they did, too. N.C. State was the last at-large team announced.

The momentum hasn't slowed since they were revealed in the bracket. They rolled past San Diego State, a trendy pick to reach the round of 16, and then needed some clutch free throws down the stretch to knock off third-seeded Georgetown.

"We're a team that just kept getting better," said Mark Gottfried, who's in his first season leading the Wolfpack. "We played really good teams. We didn't win a lot of those games, and I just think our team began to figure out how to defend a little bit better, what we needed to run at certain times, and who needed to do what for us."

Perhaps nobody has figured things out quite as well as C.J. Leslie -- or Calvin, as Gottfried refers to him -- who had been saddled with a reputation as a problem child.

The sophomore forward has openly credited Gottfried with making him grow up.

"He basically told me to step up and be a leader," Leslie said. "Be a leader for our team, do the things that I need to do to make my team get better."

It's little surprise that the Wolfpack's postseason run has coincided with some breakout performances from their best player.  Leslie is averaging better than 18 points and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field over the past 10 games.

"I think we are a Cinderella team," he said. "Nobody expected us to be here. We just keep believing in ourselves that we're going to make it to at least the Final Four."

That's the expectation every season at Kansas.

Still, even coach Bill Self tried to temper high hopes this year. The Jayhawks lost a bevy of talent from last season's team, and the returning players included a former walk-on in Teahan and a couple of guys who'd spent most of their careers riding the bench.

Then March rolled around and the Jayhawks were ready for another NCAA tournament.

"One thing about coaching at my school is even though faces change, expectations don't," Self said. "They have great pride, and I really think between their ears and their effort and all those things have had as much to do with our team's success as it has been raw talent."

Kansas secured its eighth straight Big 12 regular-season title and was seeded third or better in the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive year.

Not that seeds matter all that much.

The Jayhawks know that as well as anybody.

"I don't think there's really any upsets this time of year, like a lot of the so-called prognosticators think there is," Self said. "Once you get to the weekend, all the teams are good."

Copyright 2012 by KCTV5 and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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