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Off the cuff: In the first half, I told my wife (using Coach Williams language) that Carolina was getting the crap beat out of them. The score was 19-10. I didn't know what getting the crap beat out of them was. Over the next seven minutes the Heels were outscored 21-2. I didn't tell my wife anything - I guess because I didn't know what was worse than getting the crap beat out of you.

When the score got to 38-12 with 7:32 left in the first half, veteran announcer Billy Packer declared, "This game is over." Five minutes later he forcefully stated that Carolina was on a major run. What difference did it make, the game was over remember?

The Heels did settle in a bit and went on a 10-0 run. But the halftime lead could have been cut to 12 (instead of the 17-point deficit) had Ellington hit a shot in the lane that he probably hasn't missed all year and Green had hit a wide open three during the run.

I started to believe Carolina would win and win going away when the Heels got it down to four at 54-50 with 11 minutes still to go. But Kansas stopped the foolish quick outside shots and the Heels went cold again. And that was that.

Headlines all over the Internet read that Kansas dominated the Heels. The writers must have missed that part where the Heels had it to five and a three rimmed out. Still, it would have been better for posterity's sake if Carolina could have kept the final tally closer.

I thought the Heels had a good shot to win the national title this year - and they did have a good shot at it. But it takes luck and you have to hope you don't run into a player or team at a bad time. While we can talk about Carolina's lackluster start to the game, it was a bad time to play Kansas.

In today's world, it seems sports fans only care about winning the national championship. But I still believe that if you win the ACC regular season and tournament title, you are the best team in the country. I'm one of the few old-school fans who would rather win those two titles than come in second or third and then string together six wins at the end of the season to become NCAA champs. I enjoy the ride throughout the season - each game - and one disappointing and frustrating loss at the end ultimately doesn't ruin the season - although it kinda feels that way right now to Carolina fans.

The intense media coverage all season that focuses on the NCAA tournament and who that winner will be is one major reason why we obsess. The world is a lot more global rather than local now I guess. It wasn't like that when UCLA was winning all those titles under John Wooden. The NCAA tournament appearance was gravy, icing on the cake for an ACC team - but winning the ACC title, now that was something. That being said, the sting of losing, especially in a frustrating game like this one, isn't any lighter.

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Jayhawks 84, Heels 66
Carolina's run ends after comeback falls short

The North Carolina Tar Heels got down by 28 points in the first half, fought back to within four points in the second half and finally succumbed to Kansas 84-66 to end their run for the NCAA title. (4/5)

Coach Roy Williams said he was surprised at the lack of energy the Tar Heels had at the start of the game but he was proud of the comeback. "They were much more aggressive than we were and then we rushed things a little bit," Coach Williams said.

One could almost hear the TVs clicking off all over the country when Kansas darted out to a 40-12 lead. The Heels went nine minutes without a field goal and the Jayhawks had the inside and outside game working during a dominating 25-2 run. Kansas got five steals and four three-pointers during the run.

But the Heels fought back cutting the lead to 15 near the end of the first half following a Danny Green steal and layup. Kansas' tiny but burly guard Sherron Collins scored a running bucket at the buzzer to deflate the Heels. Still, Carolina ended the half on a 15-4 run to draw to 44-27.

"When we were down by 17 at the half I really thought we would come back and win," Coach Williams said. "I wouldn't trade my kids for anybody's."

Down 54-37 four minutes into the second half, the Heels went on another run starting with a Green three and a long two to make it 54-42. Wayne Ellington scored back-to-back buckets, including the second after a steal, to get the deficit under 10 at 54-46.

Kansas, obviously rattled, had the ball taken away for the fifth time during the run. Tyler Hansbrough scored to cut it to 54-48. A traveling violation gave the ball back to Carolina and Marcus Ginyard shot a backdoor pass to Ellington who scored to make it 54-50.

Down 58-53, the Heels had a chance to cut it to two when a Green three-pointer rimmed around and out. Fellow Heels Alex Stepheson and Will Graves fought each other for the rebound and it went out of bounds to Kansas.

An alley oop to Sasha Kaun followed by a Kaun short jumper inside put the Jayhawks back up by nine at 64-55. With 5:40 left Hansbrough drove the baseline for a bucket to cut it to 64-59.

But after Collins drained a three from the top of the key 17 seconds later, it seemed to start to fall apart again for the Heels. Kansas once again started getting the ball inside and the Heels starting missing - Ginyard missed a three, Ellington missed a three, Green bounced the ball out of bounds, then he missed a three and finally Hansbrough missed a three. By the time that stretch was over, the Jayhawks had scored 13 points compared to two for the Heels.

"We kind of went in a panic mode and that was it," Hansbrough said. "It was frustrating. We just didn't come out with the energy we needed."

During a post-game interview with Kansas players, they said to a man that the first 15 minutes of the game was the best the Jayhawks had played all year. Meanwhile, the Heels scored their fewest number of first-half points of the season.

"They jumped out on us," Ellington said. "We were too casual (to start the game). But we fought and fought and had it right where we wanted it to be."

The hill just proved too high to scale as Carolina shot only 35 percent and only scored on five of 24 three-point shots. Meanwhile Kansas shot 53 percent and outrebounded UNC 38-32. The Jayhawks also got a slew of easy shots inside. In fact, they scored 50 of their points in the paint, compared to just 30 for the Heels.

Ellington led the Tar Heels in scoring with 18 points but he needed 21 shots to get there. Hansbrough, who now must decide if he is going pro or staying at UNC for his senior season, finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. The only other Carolina player to score in double figures was Green who scored 15. Only five players scored at all for the Heels.

Brandon Rush led Kansas with 25 points on an 11 of 17 shooting night.

The Tar Heels end the season at 36-3 while Kansas, also 36-3, plays for the national championship against Memphis Monday night.

Check out the game box score, a game photo gallery and a second photo gallery.
Take a look at other game articles.
Read my Tar Heels' 2007-2008 season preview on WRAL.com by clicking here.

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