Kansas and Florida looked to come to New York City and slug it out for the preseason NIT championship. They will still play, but the prize will be not leaving the Big Apple with two straight losses. Roy Williams has never lost a pre-season NIT game until tonight. His team was unable to recover from 21 turnovers and UNC's fabulous freshmen, who played like seasoned veterens.
It was a game of spurts. Kansas drew first blood with a Kirk Hinrich three-pointer, only to be answered by a North Carolina bomb - and two more quick baskets for a quick UNC lead. Kansas responded with the game's next five points to regain the lead. A Tarheel three-pointer and Nick Collison bucket later and the game was knotted at 10 each about five minutes into the game.
Kansas scored ten points in the first four-plus minutes to go toe-to-toe with North Carolina. In the following five minutes they managed just four points to UNC's nine. Only a pair of Nick Collison free throws pulled KU back to within three points about halfway through the first half.
Keith Langford ended the first half in foul trouble with three transgressions. Kirk Hinrich was lying prone by the Jayhawk bench, stretching out his back. Kansas held a rebounding edge, but committed 11 first-half turnovers, resulting in a 9-1 Tarheel run to end the first half.
The second half started with something that the first half never saw: North Carolina free throws. Kansas - despite Keith Langford's foul trouble - did not let the Tarheels get to the charity stripe. UNC made good on its first two attempts of the game to extend their halftime lead to 17 points early in the second half. UNC went on to double-up Kansas through the next 12 minutes of play, 24-12, pushing their lead past 20 points for the first time.
Kansas mounted somewhat of a second-half comeback, scoring six straight points during a 13-3 run to cut into the Tarheels' lead, but time ran out on the Jayhawks.
UNC's Rashad McCants led all scoring with 25 points. Jawad Williams was second for the Tarheels with 15.
Nick Collison paced Kansas with 19 points, followed by Kirk Hinrich with 13 and Wayne Simien with 11. Keith Langford added seven, and Aaron Miles, Bryant Nash and Jeff Graves each scored two.
As a team, KU shot just over 41 percent from the floor, including 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. Kansas hit just 10 of 16 free throws.
North Carolina hit over 47 percent from the floor, and nine of their 12 foul shots.
North Carolina moves on to face Stanford, who upset Florida in the early game. Kansas and Florida face off at 5:30 CST on Friday in the consolation match.