KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
The subplot whenever two of college basketball’s bluest blue bloods meet these days centers on Williams, who coached the Jayhawks for 15 seasons and led them to four Final Fours. He’s always had a fond place in his heart for his former school, but the Southern charmer was booed heavily by the pro-Kansas crowd during pre-game introductions.
The din didn’t die down in the second half, when things spun out of control for North Carolina and Williams earned a warning from the officials for being outside the coaching box.
It was hard to blame him for being frustrated.
The 7-foot Withey shut down the paint, forcing the Tar Heels’ new-look, four-guard offense into hanging out around the perimeter. And when their perimeter shots quit falling, and the veteran Jayhawks started to get into transition, North Carolina was powerless to stop them.
P.J. Hairston scored 15 points and James Michael McAdoo finished with 11 for the Tar Heels.
“The first half was probably the hardest we’ve played all year. Everyone was at their best. We were flying all over the place,” said the Tar Heels’ Marcus Paige. “In the second half, they got out in transition a couple times, and from there it just kept going.”
Kansas shot just 25 percent in the first half — just a bit better than the Tar Heels, who went at a 26-percent clip — as the teams combined to miss a staggering 52 shots.
Once the second half began, it was all Jayhawks.
Withey got the crowd inside the Sprint Center stirring with a put-back, and then after the Jayhawks had missed 13 straight 3-pointers to begin the NCAA tournament, Releford hit one from the wing to bring more than 18,000 fans — the vast majority Kansas fans — to their collective feet.
“We made some bonehead plays, especially me. I had six turnovers myself,” Withey said. “But in the second half, we got a better feel for them, what they were going to do.”