ST. LOUIS — Nothing personal, Roy.
Tyshawn Taylor broke out of his slump in a big way Sunday, scoring 22 points and leading Kansas back to the Final Four with an 80-67 victory over former coach Roy Williams and top-seeded North Carolina.
The second-seeded Jayhawks (31-6) will play Ohio State on Saturday in their first appearance in the Final Four since 2008, when they won the national championship.
And how's this for symmetry? Kansas began this year's tournament in Omaha, Neb., the same place as four years ago.
As the game ended, Taylor — much maligned for his shooting struggles during the first three games of the NCAA tournament — ran to Kansas fans and raised both arms in the air.
"There's no way to put into words the way we feel," Williams said. "There's no way to put into words the way I feel. ... It's the NCAA tournament. One team wins and one team loses, and that's what we have to understand."
Taylor led five Jayhawks in double figures. Player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson added 18 points and nine rebounds, and Elijah Johnson kept up his blistering pace in the tournament with 10 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:07 to play that sparked Kansas' 12-0 run to end the game. Jeff Withey made two monster blocks to deny the Tar Heels during the run — including one that set up a big three-point play by Taylor.
Taylor came up with the rebound after Withey swatted away a shot by John Henson and streaked downcourt for a layup, getting fouled by Stilman White in the process. As the Kansas-heavy crowd roared, Taylor butted his head into Robinson's chest. He made the free throw to give Kansas a 74-67 lead with 1:59 left, and the Jayhawks cruised from there.
"It was a game of runs," Williams said. "And we didn't answer the last one."
James Michael McAdoo scored 15 for the Tar Heels (32-6), who played better in their second game without injured star point guard Kendall Marshall. But North Carolina couldn't overcome a 5:46 field goal drought to end the Midwest Regional final.
It was only the third loss in 12 regional final appearances for the Tar Heels, but their second straight after losing to Kentucky last year.
This was only the second time Williams had faced Kansas since leaving the school where he spent his first 15 years as a head coach, taking the Jayhawks to the NCAA title game twice — they lost in both 1991 and 2003 — and two other Final Fours. Though Kansas fans have softened some — Williams was still greeted with a chorus of boos — Williams said Saturday that facing his old team will always be unpleasant.
"Too emotional for me. That's the bottom line," Williams said, calling Kansas his "second-favorite" team. "I don't think it'll ever feel good for me, regardless of the outcome. I don't think I'll ever feel comfortable with it."
At least this one went better than the first meeting, at the 2008 Final Four, where the Jayhawks walloped North Carolina on the way to winning the title Williams never could at Kansas.
Both teams made impressive recoveries from their ugly wins Friday night, starting on a crisp, torrid pace that had both shooting better than 56 percent at halftime.
North Carolina was playing a second straight game without the dazzling Marshall, who Williams called "our engine, our driver, the head of the thing." But unlike Friday, when the Tar Heels turned the ball over a season-high 24 times and looked surprisingly disheveled, they had things back under control Sunday.
White, a freshman, may be a "wacko," as Williams has said affectionately several times the last few days, but the kid knows how to run an offense. He had seven assists Sunday, giving him 13 for the two games without a single turnover.
The Jayhawks seemed on the verge of pulling away several times, only to have Carolina reel them back in. But just before the midway point of the second half, Kansas established some breathing room when Travis Releford scored on a jumper to start an 8-2 run. Taylor capped the spurt with a swirl-in jumper and a dunk off a turnover by John Henson to give the Jayhawks a 66-61 lead.
Tyler Zeller pulled the Tar Heels within two on a putback, and Harrison Barnes made the first of two free throws to make it 68-67 with 3:58 to play. But Johnson, shooting almost 52 percent in the tournament, drained that 3 from NBA range to start the decisive run.
"It was a four-point game. It quickly became nine," said Zeller, who had 12 points and six rebounds. "We had a timeout and I think we still thought we had a chance then. We came down and they made a great stop. ... Once they started making free throws, it hit double digits and we knew time was running out."
Saturday, March 31
New Orleans, Louisiana
(4) Louisville vs.
(1) Kentucky, 4:09 p.m.
(2) Kansas vs.
(2) Ohio State, 6:49 p.m.
TV: CBS Heady goes here
Saturday, March 31
New Orleans, Louisiana
(4) Louisville vs. (1) Kentucky,
(2) Kansas vs. (2) Ohio State,