Kansas claims OT thriller

Tuesday, April 8, 2008
ERIC GAY ~ Associated Press Kansas forward Darrell Arthur celebrated in front of Memphis guard Antonio Anderson at the end of the championship game Monday in San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO — So patient for 20 years, Kansas had no problem working an extra five minutes to bring a long-awaited championship back to the heartland.

Mario Chalmers hit a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to push the game into overtime, and the Jayhawks grinded it out from there Monday for a 75-68 victory over Memphis in one of the best title games in recent memory.

Chalmers' shot pulled Kansas into a tie after being down nine with 2:12 left. Memphis left the door open by missing four free throws down the stretch. And in a game where every point counted, Derrick Rose's two-point shot off glass that was initially ruled a 3 — and correctly overturned — also made a difference.

Chalmers' 3-pointer was never in doubt.

"We got the ball in our most clutch player's hands, and he delivered," Kansas coach Bill Self said.

It gave Kansas its first title since 1988, when Danny Manning, now an assistant coach for the Jayhawks, led them to an upset of Oklahoma. And the shot earned Chalmers the most outstanding player honor.

"I had a good look at it," Chalmers said. "When it left my hands it felt like it was good, and it just went in."

The most memorable performance in this one, though, 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 Chris Douglas-Roberts made only one of five over the last 1:12, it left the door open for KU.

It also proved all the Memphis critics right — that free-throw shooting really can cost you games, or a championship in this case. That was a theory coach John Calipari scoffed at during his team's run through the tournament, almost all of his wins runaways.

Hustling the ball down the court with 10.8 seconds left and no timeouts, 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 63-63.

"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.

Robert Dozier missed a desperation shot 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.

"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 layups 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.

Instead, the title goes back to Lawrence for the third time in the fabled program's history.

"If we played 10 times, it'd probably go five and five," Self said. "We got fortunate late."

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 to watch Self bring the title back that he never could.

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