ST. LOUIS – In December, Kansas was scuffling along at 7-3, and simply making the NCAA tournament would have been considered an achievement.

Look where the overachievers are headed now.

Kansas is on its way to the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2008, thanks to a clutch performance by Tyshawn Taylor, some stifling defense and the Jayhawks’ unshakable belief that they were better than anyone gave them credit for.

Taylor broke out of his scoring slump with 22 points, and the Jayhawks handcuffed top-seeded North Carolina for the last 5 1/2 minutes of an 80-67 victory over old coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels on Sunday.

“This would have been a year, if we got to the second weekend (of the tournament), most Kansas fans would be happy. But that’s not how those guys think,” Coach Bill Self said. “They think this is their year, and I’m certainly not going to tell them anything different.”

The second-seeded Jayhawks (31-6) will play Ohio State on Saturday in their first Final Four appearance since winning the 2008 national championship.

And how’s this for symmetry? Kansas began this year’s tournament in Omaha, Neb., the same place as four years ago.

As the game ended, Taylor — much maligned for his shooting struggles during the first three games of the NCAA tournament — ran to Kansas fans and raised both arms in the air. Travis Releford tossed his sweatbands into the crowd.

“This is what you come to Kansas for,” Taylor said. “It’s a great feeling, but it’s just one step.”

Taylor led all five Jayhawks starters in double figures. Player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson added 18 points and nine rebounds, and Elijah Johnson kept up his blistering pace in the tournament with 10 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:07 to play that sparked Kansas’ 12-0 run to end the game.

Jeff Withey made two monster blocks to deny the Tar Heels during the final run — including one that set up a big three-point play by Taylor.

Taylor came up with the rebound after Withey swatted away a shot by John Henson and streaked downcourt for a layup, getting fouled by Stilman White in the process. As what seemed like the entire state of Kansas roared, Taylor butted his head into Robinson’s chest, then made the free throw to give Kansas a 74-67 lead with 1:59 left.

Withey blocked White’s shot on the other end, and the Tar Heels never threatened again in the Midwest Regional final.

“There’s no way to put into words the way we feel,” Williams said. “There’s no way to put into words the way I feel. … It’s the NCAA tournament. One team wins and one team loses, and that’s what we have to understand.”

James Michael McAdoo scored 15 for the Tar Heels (32-6), who played better in their second game without injured star point guard Kendall Marshall. But North Carolina couldn’t make a basket over the last 5:46.