March 24, 2013
Releford hit 9-of-13 shots from the field while helping Bill Self win his 300th game as Kansas’ head coach and gave the Jayhawks (31-5) their third win in the NCAA Tournament over the last six years in meetings between the No. 2 and No. 3 winningest programs in NCAA history. Kansas improved to 8-0 in games played in the Sprint Center and advanced to its 30th NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
Four total Jayhawks reached double figures, including a double-double from Jeff Withey, who scored 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Naadir Tharpe added 12 points and Kevin Young finished with 10. Releford’s total was the third highest of his career, falling between Sprint Center efforts of 23 against St. Louis and 20 vs. Oregon State earlier this season. Additionally, Withey blocked five shots to surpass his own Kansas single season record (141) and moved past Duke’s Shelden Williams (39), Florida’s Joakhim Noah (41) and Duke’s Shane Battier (42) into second place for career blocks in the NCAA Tournament at 44.
P.J. Hairston led North Carolina (25-11) with 15 points and was joined in double digits by James Michael McAdoo who chipped in 11. Kansas limited Reggie Bullock (14.2 ppg) to just five points on 1-of-7 shooting and the KU’s nation-best field goal percentage defense held the Tar Heels to 30.1 percent from the field – more than 14 percent lower than its season average.
Both teams were on and off at moments during the first half, but Releford helped get Kansas’ switch stuck in the on position after the break. Releford scored 10 of KU’s first 19 points as the Jayhawks erased a nine-point deficit – its largest halftime deficit overcome this season – then refused to give the lead back. Elijah Johnson hit a three – his first in five attempts – to tie the game at 35, then Releford put Kansas up 37-35 and the Jayhawks never trailed again, pushing the lead to as many as 17 with a little more than a minute to play,
Kansas’s 63 percent shooting effort in the second half was in stark contrast to the 25 percent mark in the first half – KU’s lowest total ever for one half in NCAA Tournament play. Both teams struggled to a combined 1-for-16 early on and flirted with spurts of shooting success at opposite times in the first half. North Carolina went first, building a 14-4 advantage while Kansas fanned on 11 straight shot attempts before a Perry Ellis tip-in slowed the UNC momentum.
That’s when UNC’s shooting woes kicked in and the Tar Heels missed 12 straight while Kansas charged back to take the lead at 15-14 after an 11-0 run, including five in a row from Releford.
North Carolina closed the half by outscoring Kansas 16-6 and led 30-21 at the break. Kansas had trailed by nine in two other games this season – at TCU and at Baylor – which were both losses.
Kansas advances to the Sweet 16 for the sixth time under Bill Self, who improved to 300-58 while at KU, and will match-up with No. 4 Michigan at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas March 28 or 29.