Lost awhile among the giants, Kansas' little guys found their way into the NCAA finals by scooting around, under and through North Carolina and running the Tar Heels dizzy.
Mark Randall and Alonzo Jamison, with plenty of help from their smaller teammates, built the Jayhawks' 79-73 victory Saturday by beating North Carolina on the backboards.North Carolina's big men - 7-footer Eric Montross and 6-10 Pete Chilcutt - looked as if they were patting around a volleyball early in the game. They ruled the backboards and Carolina had Kansas down 24-15.
A few moments later, during a timeout with 7:42 left in the first half, Kansas coach Roy Williams zeroed in on the problem.
Stop their big men, Williams implored his players. Help out underneath. Box out. Keep them from getting second, third and fourth shots. Whatever it takes, do it.
The players got the message.
The Jayhawks swarmed to the backboards, grabbing everything in sight. They dove for loose balls, swiped balls out of the Tar Heels' hands.
During a breathless five-minute stretch, the Jayhawks outscored North Carolina 17-1 and left at halftime with a 43-34 lead.
"Kind of a light went on and everybody started going to the backboards," Randall said. "Rebounding is just a matter of going after the ball. Mentally, you've got to go want the ball. You don't have to be as physical or as strong, you just have to have a desire to get the ball.
"One of the keys the coach wrote up on the board (before the game) was to rebound, be strong and go get the ball. We weren't doing that early in the first half. The second part of the first half I think everybody decided to go get the ball and that kind of changed it around. I think our defense was the key tonight."
North Carolina coach Dean Smith blamed the loss on "a combination of several things. One, Kansas defense. Two, we missed some layups. Three, we were impatient."
At the point when Williams spoke to his players during that crucial timeout, North Carolina had outrebounded Kansas 17-12. By the end of the half, Kansas outrebounded North Carolina 25-12.
Kansas, a team that looked bad against bigger teams like Nebraska and Oklahoma State, outrebounded North Carolina 51-42 for the game. Every time North Carolina surged close in the second half, Kansas pulled away by stopping the Tar Heels under the glass.
Randall, 6-9, and Jamison, 6-6, grabbed 11 rebounds each, and Richard Scott, 6-5, added six more for Kansas.
Chilcutt had 11 rebounds, Montross three and Rick Fox nine for North Carolina.