Well, we certainly didn't expect this. Kansas, thanks to an 18-0 run in which Carolina went 9:03 without a field goal, raced out to a 40-12 lead before the Heels used a 15-4 run to close within 44-27 at the half. Here are a few observations in regards to the first half.
1. North Carolina has not seen a team this good on the defensive end of the floor.
That much was clear in the early going. The inability for the Heels to get to the basket left them to resort to long-distance shots with little chance of going in. Unfortunately, the name Shammond Williams came into my mind, he of notoriously poor outside shooting in UNC trips to the Final Four in both 1997 and 1998 (in San Antonio). But thanks to some foul difficulties incurred by KU, and a couple of shots falling, they have some life left in them.
2. Cole Aldrich stepped up in a big way in the first half.
With Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson on the bench with two fouls apiece, the freshman stepped up in a big way on both ends of the floor. Six points and six rebounds for the McDonald's All-American, and it helped keep the ball rolling for the Jayhawks with two of their main big men saddled with foul trouble.
3. If Kansas looks to milk the clock too much, North Carolina can make this very interesting.
Coach Self looked to take the air out of the ball some late in the half, which may have been a case of negotiating not having either Brandon Rush or Mario Chalmers due to their foul trouble. But the deliberate style allowed UNC to get back into the game with that 15-4 run to end the half. KU has to play with the same urgency they put on display during that 18-0 run, if not have just as good a result. If they can, then the Jayhawks will be playing on Monday night.
What does North Carolina have to do to get back into this game?
- Don't settle for three pointers; get the ball inside to the bigs and attack the rim.
- Defend/take care of the defensive glass much better than they did in the first half. Defense hasn't been their strong suit all season, but the improvement they'd shown in March has been non-existent to this point.
Enjoy the second half.