LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Jim Jackson wouldn't let it happen again. Not two years in a row.
Third-ranked Ohio State advanced to the Southeast Regional final by beating North Carolina, 80-73, at Rupp Arena last night, chasing the ghosts of 1991 in the process.
The victory was the ninth in a row for the Buckeyes (26-5), who will meet the winner of last night's second game between Michigan and Oklahoma State.
Just a year ago, the Buckeyes had reached the Sweet 16, only to experience a national humiliation. They were beaten badly by St. John's, 91-74, a No. 1 seed losing to a No. 4 seed.
It was that haunting memory that helped inspire last night's victory. The Buckeyes, No. 1 seed in the Southeast, were matched up with a fourth seed once again.
The Buckeyes had flashbacks of a repeat in the first half when they shot only 36 percent from the field and fell behind by as many as nine points.
But Jackson scored 14 of his 18 points in a second-half charge to keep Ohio State in the tournament.
Down 37-32 at the half, the Buckeyes quickly took control of the game in the second half. Jackson supplied the spark, scoring the Ohio State's first seven points. His three-point jump shot tied the game at 39 and triggered an 18-7 run.
"We knew they'd go to Jimmy Jackson in the second half; we just couldn't do much about it," North Carolina coach Dean Smith said after the Tar Heels finished the season 23-10.
The Buckeyes had been in this position before, as recently as last week in the sub-regional against Connecticut, when they came from behind to beat the Huskies, 78-55.
"It seems this team finds a way to win," Ohio State coach Randy Ayers said. "We lost our poise and patience in the first half when our shots wouldn't go down. But we regrouped in the second half."
Jackson was 2-for-7 from the field in the first half, but was 6-for-10 in the second. "At halftime, coach kept stressing to us that we were only down five and we didn't play well," Jackson said.
Chris Jent also broke out of a 1-for-9 shooting slump to score 12 of his 15 points after halftime.
"It goes to show we've been through a few seasons together," Jent said. "We know what it takes to get each other going. As far as Jim goes, he's going to step up no matter what happens."
Out-rebounded in the first half by Carolina 22-12, Ohio State held a 24-17 advantage on the boards in the second.
Lawrence Funderburke and Jackson had seven rebounds each, but Funderburke's biggest contribution was a series of thunderous dunks. He finished with 21 points.
The Buckeyes also got 14 points off the bench from Jamie Skelton, including two critical three-pointers down the stretch.
"He is in his rhythm at that point and had good rotation on his shot," Ayers said of Skelton's playing time at the end.
Jackson broke the last tie at 63 with two straight baskets for a four-point lead. A follow shot by Funderburke and a three-pointer by Skelton pushed the lead to 72-67. And when Skelton retrieved his own lost ball and drove for a layup with 1:19 left, it was a 74-69 game.
The Buckeyes scored their last six points at the foul line.
Jackson's first-half shooting continued to be a problem for the Buckeyes. He scored only four points in the first 20 minutes -- on a breakaway dunk and a tip-in -- but missed his outside shots.
Not surprisingly, Ohio State started slowly as well, falling behind by as many as nine points.
Were it not for Funderburke, the Buckeyes would have had a disastrous first half. Funderburke had 10 points and four dunks.
Even with Funderburke, North Carolina still dominated the boards, 22-12. The Tar Heels' Montross had 10 points and five rebounds, and shooting guard Hubert Davis showed no ill effects from a lingering left-ankle sprain. Davis scored eight points against Jamaal Brown, Ohio State's defensive ace.
When Brown was whistled for his third personal foul with 3:53 left in the half, the Buckeyes went to a zone defense.