- Jason King
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ST. LOUIS - Quick thoughts from Kansas' 60-57 victory over North Carolina State in the Sweet 16.
Overview: The Kansas team that everyone tagged as Bill Self's worst is turning out to be one of his best. Or at least one of his toughest.
For the second consecutive game, the Jayhawks found a way to grind out a win against double-digit seed despite struggling mightily on the offensive end. Kansas shot just 37.5 percent from the field against NC State, the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region. The Wolfpack, though, made just 28.6 percent of its shots against Kansas, which advances to play No. 1 seed North Carolina on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. ET at the Edward Jones Dome.
North Carolina needed overtime to defeat No. 13 seed Ohio 73-65 in Friday's other Sweet 16 matchup in St. Louis. The Tar Heels are coached by Roy Williams, who spent 15 years as Kansas' head coach before leaving after the 2002-03 season for Chapel Hill.
Even though North Carolina could be without injured point guard Kendall Marshall, the Jayhawks will need to play much better than they did against NC State if they hope to defeat the Tar Heels. Kansas - which shot just 33.9 percent in last week's 63-60 victory over Purdue - got off to a horrendous start and trailed 13-3 early in the first half.
The Jayhawks were down 33-32 at intermission. All but two of their opening-half points came in the paint. Kansas, though, opened the second half on a 12-2 scoring run that led to a 44-35 cushion. From there, Self's squad managed to stave off the Wolfpack until the game's closing minutes, when NC State made it interesting.
With Kansas leading 58-52, Jayhawks guard Elijah Johnson fouled Scott Wood as the Wolfpack guard was attempting a 3-pointer. Wood made all three free throws to pull his team within 3, 58-55. Tyshawn Taylor turned it over on Kansas' next possession, and NC State capitalized with a fast-break layup with that made it 58-57.
Wood then missed a 3-pointer for NC State. The Wolfpack got the rebound, but C.J. Leslie's put-back attempt was blocked by Jeff Withey. Taylor came away with the ball and was fouled, but he missed the front end of the one-and-one. NC State, though, knocked the ball out of bounds on the battle for the rebound with 13.5 seconds left. Kansas took advantage when Taylor found a cutting Johnson for an easy layup on the inbounds pass that provided the final score.
Turning point: Kansas didn't feel good about the win until Wood stepped out of bounds with 4.3 seconds remaining, just before he attempted a 3-pointer that would've forced a 63-63 tie and, most likely, overtime.
Key player: Withey had 8 points and 10 blocks for No. 2-seeded Kansas. Thomas Robinson had a game-high 18 points and 15 rebounds. Leslie led NC State with 18 points.
Up next: The Jayhawks have played UNC just once - in the 2008 Final Four - since Williams' departure. Kansas stormed out to a 40-12 lead in that game and eventually prevailed 84-66. Two nights later, Kansas won the NCAA title with an overtime victory against Memphis.