LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- They had their worst shooting game of the season in surviving a first-round game against New Orleans, but the Kansas shooters arrived yesterday in time to send the Jayhawks to the Sweet 16.
No. 3 seed Kansas got out to a 12-point lead in the openinminutes, and sustained the advantage on its outside shooting and aggressive defense for a 77-66 win over No. 6 seed Pittsburgh. The victory sends the Jayhawks to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament's Southeast Regional semifinals this week in Charlotte, N.C.
"I'm extremely happy to be going back to North Carolina with thibasketball team," said Kansas coach Roy Williams, who graduated from North Carolina in 1972. "I'll have a lot of family there, so I guess I'll be asking my players for some tickets."
The Jawhawks (24-7) took a 14-2 lead after a jumper by AdoniJordan less than four minutes into the game. But Pittsburgh (21-12) rallied on the strength on seven first-half three-pointers -- its last six field goals of the half were threes -- and trailed, 34-32, at halftime. The Panthers, whose only lead of the first half was 32-31 with 42 seconds left, never were able to solve the Jayhawks' patient offense that opened up easy shots. The Panthers led once more, 37-36, and were within 48-45 after a three-pointer by Darelle Porter six minutes into the half, but the Jayhawks went on a 10-3 run -- with Jordan and Terry Brown hitting three-pointers -- to take a 58-48 lead with 7:47 left.
The closest Pittsburgh would get was 64-57 after Antoine Jonescored on a short jumper with just more than four minutes left, but the Jayhawks outscored the Panthers 13-7 the rest of the way.
"I thought they did a good job fronting our big men," Pittsburgguard Sean Miller said. "They also did a good job getting to all the loose balls. Today just wasn't our day."
Kansas defenders smothered Pittsburgh's three-point shooters in the second half. After making seven of 15 from beyond the three-point line in the first 20 minutes, Pittsburgh was three of eight on three-pointers the rest of the way.
"The first thing I wrote on the board today was, 'The most intensive defense ever,' " Williams said. "I think our team was up to this, and it caused their people to get a little frustrated.
"I also wrote, 'Let's dominate the backboards and do all the littlthings needed to win, like dive for loose balls,' " he said. "I think we accomplished all of that. This is a very competitive team."
In Thursday's 55-49 win over New Orleans, the Jayhawks, who average 85 points, had a season low for points and field-goal percentage (41.4). Yesterday, the Big Eight regular-season co-champions shot 52.9 percent, as three players scored in double figures. Brown led the way with 22 points, and Jordan added 16 -- including four of five three-pointers.
Kansas enjoyed a 37-27 rebounding advantage, with AlonzJamison grabbing eight.
Pittsburgh, which missed the NCAA tournament for the first timin seven years last season, beat Georgia in the first round. In their last NCAA appearance, the Panthers lost to Ball State, 68-64, in the first round of the 1989 tournament.