With just one spot in the 2012 Final Four still up for grabs, we've got a pair of the country's top programs hitting the hardwood: North Carolina vs. Kansas. Before the game tips off in St. Louis, however, the story is all about a young man who won't be playing.
UNC will take on Kansas without injured point guard Kendall Marshall, who fractured a bone in his wrist during the team's Round of 32 win over Creighton. Without Marshall piloting the Heels' offense, Roy Williams' squad struggled against Ohio, needing overtime to edge the No. 13 Bobcats in the Sweet 16.
Williams' former employer, Kansas, also found itself in a taut battle in the Sweet 16. The Jayhawks survived a frenzied challenge from the Wolfpack of N.C. State. Kansas needed 10 blocks from Jeff Withey and a gritty game from Robinson to overcome a forgettable night from Tyshawn Taylor.
After his own lackluster performance, Harrison Barnes came through for North Carolina in the overtime session against Ohio. Can he keep his team's offense on track with Stillman White starting in place of Marshall? Or will Thomas Robinson and Kansas be able to keep the UNC offense from finding any rhythm?
A trip to New Orleans awaits the winner of this epic Elite Eight matchup in the Midwest Region. Stay tuned for live updates throughout the action:
A thrilling game concluded with a 12-0 run for Jayhawks. After trading haymakers all night, Withey's blocks started key fastbreaks.
Withey adds another free throw as we're under 30 seconds. This should do it..
And then Johnson hit both free throws.. 79-67 to Kansas and fans are singing in the stands.
Releford hits 1 of 2 and Kansas leads 77-67. Barnes misses from three and UNC fouls again after defensive rebound secured by KU.
Under a minute, UNC begins fouling. Johnson misses front end but Kansas gets offensive board. Another foul..
White found himself free and shot from three. Shot bounces high off iron.. Releford rebounds. He's fouled. One more before shots.. UNC pressing.
With just 73 seconds on the clock, UNC needs to talk it over, catch their breath.. Withey just ignited a potentially game-clinching run Jayhawks. It's 76-67.
Withey gets another block and KU gets another breakout bucket! It's 76-67 to Kansas and we're under 2 minutes.
Withey blocks Henson and Taylor is charging hard down the other end. White is with him and fouls Taylor, who muscles up the shot.. it DROPS!
Kansas has the ball as we approach 2 minutes.
Barnes gets inside amidst a crowd of blue shirts but his shot won't go down. Zeller crashing again but he can't corral the rebound. Robinson has it for Kansas, his 8th board. Timeout Kansas.
Kansas turned UNC right back around and Johnson sinks from distance.
Zeller stuffs Taylor inside and here come the Heels
Barnes hits 1 of 2 from the line and we're under 4 minutes.
|@ ESPNStatsInfo : Betwen timeouts at 6:43 and 4:19, Kansas only attempted 1 FG and was outrebounded 4-0 but UNC only outscored them 2-0. Kansas leads, 68-66.|
A quick foul on Kansas big triggers another timeout and likely informs some of the discussions in each huddle.
Taylor misses a quick pull-up-in-transition three-point attempt after that steal and UNC controls rebound. Bill Self not pleased. UNC timeout.
UNC passing around the edges of KU zone as shot clock trickles down.. Watts stripped as he had to drive..
Robinson travels again with no whistle. UNC turns over Jayhawks shortly thereafter anyway..
He crashes boards to clean up Barnes miss. 68-66.
Robinson picks up his third on a blocking call.
|@ YahooForde : KU has turned up the defense and hammered the glass, budging ahead by four. Carolina settling for outside shots a lot, fatigue a factor?|
Kansas leads 68-64 with about 6 and half minutes remaining when foul on Young triggers TV stoppage.
|@ RobDauster : Kansas is in a 1-2-2 matchup zone. Giving UNC some issues.|
|@ WhitlockJason : UNC looks soft. Giving up too many offensive rebounds.|
Withey grabs o' board and lays it in after McAdoo blocked Johnson.
After nearly stumbling as he drives into the paint, White bounces it between the tall trees to McAdoo. He grabs in stride and lays it in. Hoop and the harm! It's 66-64.
Kansas in the midst of another surge as Teahan steals and Taylor slams to finish break. 66-61.
After Robinson misses another shot on a good move, Young grabs all sorts of offensive boards. Trip ends with Taylor getting a ball to roll around and around before dropping.
Kansas misses a pair of close-range shots on recent trips...