Kansas Surges Past Memphis to NCAA Title
|Kansas' Darnell Jackson celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Memphis 75-68 in the championship game at the NCAA college basketball Final Four Monday, April 7, 2008, in San Antonio.|
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Memphis kept missing. Mario Chalmers wasn't about to. Chalmers' 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation put the game in overtime, and Kansas pulled away to a 75-68 victory on Monday night for its first national championship since Danny and the Miracles 20 years ago.
Mario and the Miracles? That has a good ring to it, too.
Chalmers' game-saving 3 came after Memphis missed four of five free throws that would have put the game and the title out of reach. It completed a comeback from nine points down with 2:12 left.
"It'll probably be the biggest shot ever made in Kansas history," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
The ending made a mockery of Memphis coach John Calipari's theory that his players, one of the country's worst with 59 percent free-throw shooting, didn't have to be good because they would always come through when the stakes were highest.
"It will probably hit me like a ton of bricks tomorrow, that we had it in our grasp," Calipari said.
All those bricks meant something in a game where every point counted. So did Rose's two-point shot off glass initially ruled a 3 - and correctly overturned - with 4:15 left.
Nothing about Chalmers' 3-pointer was in doubt.
"I had a good look at it," he said. "When it left my hands it felt like it was good, and it just went in."
Although Chalmers will go down in history, the most memorable overall performance came from Rose, the Memphis freshman, who completely took over the game in the second half, scoring 14 of his team's 16 points during one stretch to lift the Tigers to a 60-51 lead with 2:12 left.
But Kansas (37-3) used the strategy any smart opponent of Memphis' would - fouling the heck out of one of the country's worst free-throw-shooting teams - and when Rose and Douglas-Roberts made only one of five over the last 1:12, it left the door open for KU.
"Ten seconds to go, we're thinking we're national champs, all of a sudden a kid makes a shot, and we're not," Calipari said.
Hustling the ball down the court with 10.8 seconds left, no timeouts and trailing by three, Sherron Collins handed off to Chalmers at the top of the 3-point line, and Chalmers took the shot. It hit nothing but net and tied the score at 63.
Robert Dozier missed a desperation heave at the buzzer, and Rose went limping to the bench, favoring his right leg. Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson scored the first six points of overtime to put Kansas ahead 69-63.
Memphis, clearly exhausted, didn't pull any closer than three the rest of the way. Rose played all 45 minutes in what could very well be his last college game.
"Overtime, they kind of beat us down," Calipari said. "I didn't sub a whole lot, because I was trying to win the game at the end."
Arthur was dominant inside, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds, lots on dunks and easy lay-ups off lob passes. Chalmers finished with 18 points. Rush had 12 and Collins had 11 points, six assists and did a wonderful job shutting Rose for the first 28 minutes.
Rose wound up with 18 points in a game that showed how ready he is for the NBA. He was 3-for-4 from the line, however, and that one miss with 10.8 seconds left is what almost certainly would have sealed the game and given the Tigers (38-2) their first title.
"It wasn't really the free throws," Rose said. "If we'd done things before the free throws, we would've been in good shape."
Instead, the title goes back to Lawrence for the third time in the fabled program's history.
The inventor of the game, James Naismith, was the first Jayhawks coach. It's the school that made household names of Wilt Chamberlain, Manning - and yes, even North Carolina's Roy Williams, the coach who famously left the Jayhawks, lost to them in the semifinals, but was, indeed, in the Kansas cheering section Monday wearing a Jayhawks sticker on his shirt.
After the game, Self didn't exactly end speculation that he might also bail for his alma mater, Oklahoma State.
"I'm not going to say that couldn't potentially happen because I guess it potentially can," Self said.
This game was not about coaches or sidestories, though. It was about the game, and what a dandy it was - a well-needed reprieve from a more-or-less blah tournament in which 42 of 63 games were decided by double digits.
This was the first overtime in the title game since 1997, when Arizona beat Kentucky 84-79.
"Being up seven, being down nine, being up two, down five, going to overtime," Kansas center Cole Aldrich said. "We fought it out, and it's surreal. It's nuts."
Rose went crazy during Memphis' second half run. A 3-pointer here, a scooping layup for a three-point play next. Then, the capper, an off-balance, 18-foot shot off glass with the shot-clock buzzer sounding. Officials at first credited Rose with a 3, but went to the replay monitor and saw he was clearly inside the line.
Even with the point deducted, Memphis has a 56-49 lead and all the momentum. Most teams would have been demoralized.
Clearly, Kansas is not most teams.
In fact, the Jayhawks are a team that has come together in tragedy over the last several months. The deaths of friends and family of Jackson, Sasha Kaun and Rodrick Stewart all cast a bit of a pall over this team, making Jackson wonder at times if staying at Kansas was even worth it.
Just when the Jayhawks looked to be moving past their bad times, Stewart fractured his kneecap, a freak accident during Kansas' practice Friday at the Alamodome.
But it was another injury that might have been most responsible for blending this championship formula. Rush tore up his knee during a pickup game last May, and his NBA plans were put on hiatus.
He worked his way back into shape this season and is playing his best right now. He didn't have the most impressive stat line of the night, but it hasn't all been about stats for him in this, his junior season. His defense was stellar, as usual, and surely his experience and resolve played into Kansas' refusal to go away.
He set the table.
Chalmers got the glory.
"That has to be one of the biggest shots in basketball history," Stewart said.