MADISON, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- Kansas earned its revenge, but not without a fight.
Drew Gooden collected 15 points and 13 rebounds as the top-seeded Jayhawks avenged last year's loss to No. 4 Illinois in the Midwest Region semifinals with a 73-69 victory.
Last season, Kansas was the fourth seed and the Fighting Illini were first in the Midwest when the Illini rolled to an 80-64 victory in the "Sweet 16." But the Jayhawks erased that memory by holding off a furious rally to set up a matchup with second-seeded Oregon on Sunday.
"I felt as though I have been through a war," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "I never felt comfortable. It was a battle all night long." Kansas (32-3) held a 69-59 lead with 5:22 left before the Illini rallied with seven straight points. Robert Archibald's follow shot cut the deficit to 71-68 with just over two minutes left.
Archibald made a free throw to trim the margin to two and Illinois (26-9) had another chance, but Brian Cook missed a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left and Gooden grabbed the rebound for Kansas.
Jeff Boschee missed his 1-and-1 opportunity, giving Illinois a final crack at the tying basket.
The Illini found Frank Williams, who set up a play. Damir Krupalija and Sean Harrington each passed up open shots. Harrington found Williams on the left side for a wide-open jumper but the final shot of his career rimmed out.
"Fortunately, I had a good look at the basket," Frank Williams said. "I was down on the baseline, and I just didn't knock down the shot." Freshman Aaron Miles made a pair from the line with three seconds left to seal the victory.
Ironically, Frank Williams said that he was glad he was playing his final game here after a 72-66 loss at Wisconsin on January 5. The Illini have lost four straight at the Kohl Center.
"It was obviously a great college basketball game," Illinois coach Bill Self said. "We played well. They played well. We just came up short." In last season's victory over Kansas, Frank Williams was unstoppable and poured in 30 points. He missed his first six shots on Friday and had just 15 points on 6-of-18 shooting.
"Their guards did a good job of pressuring us," Frank Williams said. "It interrupted our rhythm a little bit." Frank Williams fed freshman Luther Head for a layup and a 45-45 tie with just under 16 minutes left. Nick Collison had a layup that gave Kansas the lead for good and freshman Wayne Simien later added a three-point play that extended the lead to 57-51 with 11:16 left.
The Jayhawks appeared to be in good shape when Gooden and freshman Keith Langford scored for the 69-59 lead. Archibald had two free throws, Harrington drilled a 3-pointer and Frank Williams had a layup to slice the deficit to three with just under three minutes left.
Kansas received a huge effort from its freshmen as senior guard Kirk Hinrich was limited to a season-low 17 minutes due to foul trouble. Langford scored 15 points off the bench, Miles added 13 and five assists and Simien chipped in seven points and six rebounds.
"They won the game for us," Collison said. "Me, Jeff and Kirk didn't play well. If we had normal freshmen guys in that situation, we would have probably lost, but we have freshmen with a lot of heart and a lot of courage that really stepped up." Led by Langford, the Jayhawks' bench held a 25-14 edge.
"Last year, if I am not mistaken, they outscored us eight million to two or something like that on the bench," Roy Williams said. "The bench was big-time for us and that is a big part of our team this year." Archibald collected 15 points and 10 rebounds while Brian Cook netted 13 points for Illinois, which opened the season ranked second in the country but started Big Ten play with just a 4-5 mark. The Illini shot just 38 percent (24-of-63).
"We didn't shoot the ball well," Self said. "I'm sure trying so hard had something to do with not shooting it well because our guys tried hard." Kansas now gets an opportunity to get a huge monkey off it's back. The Jayhawks are top-seeded for the fourth time since 1993 but have reached a regional final for the first time in that span.