Kansas overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to roar back and defeat North Carolina in the 2013 NCAA tournament on Sunday, 70-58.
The Jayhawks are headed to the Sweet 16 yet again after making it to the national championship game last season. It was head coach Bill Self's 300th career win.
North Carolina entered halftime with a 30-21 lead over Kansas. It was a rough start for the No. 1-seeded Jayhawks, who went 7-of-28 from the floor while committing 12 turnovers. Kansas was shooting 48 percent from the floor and averaging 13.8 turnover per game headed into the contest, via TeamRankings.com.
Perhaps what was most surprising about the Jayhawks' first-half performance was the fact that star freshman guard Ben McLemore went 0-of-5 from the floor, scoring two points to go along with his two turnovers.
The Tar Heels didn't shoot well from the field in the first half (26 percent), but dictated the pace of the game, attempting 42 shots and only turning the ball over twice. Senior guard and Kansas City native Travis Releford led all players with nine points at the half (4-of-5 shooting).
But Kansas came out of halftime on fire, going on an 11-3 run in less than four minutes before North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was forced to take a timeout with the Tar Heels clinging on to a one-point lead.
Less than one minute later, a three-pointer by Jayhawks senior guard Elijah Johnson tied the game at 35 points apiece. It was his first field goal in the game.
The Jayhawks went on a run from there, led by Releford and senior forward Kevin Young. They jumped out to a 56-42 lead with 7:38 remaining and continued to roll down the stretch.
Releford finished with a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds. Kansas center Jeff Withey added 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. Young had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Despite committing 23 turnovers, Kansas was able to surge to an emphatic victory by going 17-of-27 in the second half. The Jayhawks also out-rebounded the Tar Heels 47-30.
North Carolina star James Michael McAdoo and sophomore guard P.J. Hairston combined to go 11-of-36 from the floor in the loss.
ESPN Stats & Info put each team's scoring woes in the first half in perspective:
UNC and Kansas combined to miss 52 shots in 1st half. Iowa St and Ohio St missed a combined 53 shots in their entire game.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 24, 2013
In fewer than two games, Kansas had already put up some startling statistics, as Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk noted:
In 60 minutes of tourney basketball, Kansas has 29 turnovers and is 0-12 from three.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) March 24, 2013
Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com was beside himself when looking at each team's shooting numbers after one half:
The teams are a combined 8-39.You'd think it was snowing indoors too.— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) March 24, 2013
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports Network noted the Tar Heels' talent level:
Kansas is the one seed. UNC is the eight seed. But Tarheels are by far the more talented team. Loaded squad.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 24, 2013
Bleacher Report's own Eric Ball looked at Kansas center Jeff Withey's potential in the NBA:
Love Jeff Withey of #Kansas. He's got the potential to be a core player on an NBA contender right away.— Eric Ball (@BigLeagueEball) March 24, 2013