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Archive for Sunday, April 6, 2008

Heels run out of gas

Huge hole proves insurmountable

April 6, 2008

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2008 NCAA Tournament

2008 NCAA Tournament

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— It's no surprise. North Carolina coach Roy Williams was emotionally fragile following the Tar Heels' 84-66 loss to Kansas University at the Alamodome on Saturday.

The end of the season always gets at Williams, who's corny by his own admission and always significantly attached to the players he leads. It goes back to his early days in charge of Kansas almost 20 years ago.

This year's North Carolina team was no different.

"We had a marvelous, marvelous run," said Williams, who was close to getting teary-eyed at one point in his postgame press conference. "But yet, their dreams were bigger than this, and it hurts a great deal now."

Williams was sentimental, while the UNC players were soft-spoken and depressed after Saturday's Final Four nightcap. It stemmed from a 40-12 start to the game by Kansas, which clocked the Tar Heels upside the head and forced them to play catch-up all night.

The Tar Heels (36-3) fought back to cut the deficit to 54-50, but they admitted that a rally of that magnitude exhausted them. When Kansas pushed back, North Carolina fell to the mat and raised the white flag.

Kansas finished the game on a 30-16 surge.

"We had it right where we wanted to be," said guard Wayne Ellington, who led the Tar Heels with 18 points. "I felt like we just kind of gave in when they started attacking us again."

Added Williams: "I guess it's a little like that story tale about the little engine that spent so much trying to get up the hill, it didn't have anything left when it got to the top."

Williams tried preaching selective memory, telling his team during a second-half timeout, "We've been down five or six (points) several times this year, and that's what it is right now. Don't worry about what it was in the first half."

But UNC never got closer than four, and the game got so out of reach at the end that walk-ons for both teams played out the final minute.

"We felt like everything was kind of going our way," said All-American Tyler Hansbrough, who had 17 points and nine rebounds. "But they made little runs, and we didn't get stops. They just kept going at us."

Williams has professed having a love for both Kansas and North Carolina, but he's not getting much love when he plays against them. Williams is now 1-3 against the other school - 1-2 against North Carolina while at Kansas and 0-1 against Kansas while at North Carolina.

The spicy storyline of Williams playing his former team dominated the week leading up to Saturday's game.

"I told my team that I hoped that that distraction didn't bother them," Williams said, "because that would be about as bad as anything that you could have as a coach."

Williams said he "never" felt weird going against Kansas once the game began. He was asked if he hoped that Saturday's game would relieve the tense feelings between he and the KU fan base after Williams left Kansas in 2003.

"I hope it goes away forever. I'm too thin-skinned probably, but those things have hurt" he said, before changing the subject.

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