Rushed Reaction: #2 Kansas 60, #11 North Carolina State 57Posted by dnspewak on March 23rd, 2012
- Nearly Unraveled: As the seconds ticked away and North Carolina State began to charge, Bill Self grew more and more anxious on the Kansas sidelines. He stomped around, cursed at his players, and grimaced repeatedly almost as if he wished he could skip this Regional entirely and simply move on to the Final Four. Can you blame him? During the past two years, Self has watched his team choke away top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, and it appeared the Jayhawks may collapse in the same vein tonight as Northern Iowa and VCU. When it needed to make a defensive stand, though, it did. The Jayhawks forced Scott Wood into a contested three-pointer as they clinged to a one-point lead, and they caught a break when Wood stepped out of bounds with a chance to tie the game from beyond the arc. If you would like to claim North Carolina State blew the game more than Kansas won it, that’s fine. Self might not disagree with you, but all that matters is the Jayhawks survived a late surge and advanced to the regional final.
- Jeff Freakin’ Withey: The center blocked 10 shots– yes, 10– and that’s unheard of at the college level. When a reporter asked C.J. Leslie to assess Withey’s performance, he was essentially speechless. He even asked the reporter to repeat the question because he didn’t know how to answer. That’s how good Withey was. He tipped balls and got his hands on everything, finishing with perhaps the most productive eight-point effort in NCAA Tournament history.
- Tough Rims: Kansas made just one three-pointer and found a way to win, but the story here is how many poor shots North Carolina State took from the perimeter. The Wolfpack forced shot after shot, finishing 6-21 from three. Wood in particular missed seven of nine attempts, and his team settled for jumpers because Withey occupied the perimeter. The Jayhawks harassed Mark Gottfried‘s team, keeping Wood in check and holding the Wolfpack to 16.7 percent from the field in the second half.
Star of the Game. Jeff Withey, Kansas. Thomas Robinson could have easily earned this honor after another double-double, but Withey single-handedly changed the game by walking onto the floor. Take this sequence in the first half, for example: Withey enters the game and immediately (1) blocks a shot, (2) tips two balls on the offensive end to result in offensive rebounds, and (3) grabs a defensive rebound. All in the matter of only a few possessions.
Quote to Note: “[Withey's] length really bothered us. And it affected how we shot the ball around the basket, seemed like we were always trying to make a tough shot. So he definitely had an impact on the game.”
Sights and Sounds: There’s a reason Self’s staff has been so successful: preparation and execution. Tonight, every one of his assistants seemed to know exactly what North Carolina State would run on the offensive end. It was uncanny. Possession after possession, N.C. State would cross halfcourt and an assistant would immediately identify an offensive set. Early in the second half, the staff shouted that the Pack was running “Wheel,” but the KU players didn’t recognize it and Wood buried a three. A few possessions later, the staff again called out “Wheel”– but this time, they snuffed it out and didn’t even let Wood get the ball. Kudos to the Jayhawks’ staff for that.
What’s Next: Kansas advances to face top-seeded North Carolina in the Elite Eight on Sunday afternoon. It will be interesting to see how the Tar Heels adjust after a lackluster performance in their first game without Kendall Marshall. The Jayhawks should probably come into this game as the favorites even though their own guards struggled too. The key to the game may be whether or not Harrison Barnes shows up as he did not in the game earlier tonight.