Kansas Ends Madness on a Miracle

Style News Wire | 4/10/2008, 4:49 p.m.
On Monday, April 7, the two top teams in the country, Memphis and Kansas, laced up for battle in the ...

On Monday, April 7, the two top teams in the country, Memphis and Kansas, laced up for battle in the NCAA men’s championship game in San Antonio, TX.

Coming in, the game had an extreme amount of significance with so much history on the line. Kansas was looking to win its first national title in 20 years, since Danny Manning led the Jayhawks to the title. A win for KU would also mean the first national championship for a school from the Big 12 conference.

The University of Memphis also had a few accolades riding on a victory.  They had already set the record for most wins in a season (38) with a devastating rout over fellow number one seeded UCLA in the national semifinals on Saturday. A win over Kansas would also be the first national championship in program history, with the Tigers last making it to the title game in 1973 against the vaunted John Wooden-coached UCLA Bruins.

Both teams came out playing well in the beginning, with the two squads immediately displaying the defensive prowess that steamrolled the rest of the nation all season. Kansas worked the ball inside to their talented group of big men, which was obviously their advantage coming in to the game. The Jayhawks’ wonderful defensive guards, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins and Russell Robinson, harassed and floundered Memphis freshman phenom Derrick Rose, who finished the half with only 3 points on 1-4 shooting and four turnovers. Rose had been averaging over 21 points per game in the tournament.

Kansas led 33-28 at halftime.

The Memphis Tigers came out in the second half and immediately put their stamp on the game. Despite foul trouble, UM got a bunch of layups and inside shots to come back to take the lead. Also helping was the freshman Rose completely taking over the game midway through the second half with many of his teammates struggling. At one point, Rose scored 14 of 16 Memphis’ points and assisted on a few more baskets to help the Tigers build some momentum. One of the biggest plays of the game came when Rose received the ball with two seconds left in the shot clock and launched an extremely long bank shot over the 6’8 Darnell Jackson of Kansas. Plays like that show why Rose is widely considered a lock to go in the top two picks in this summer’s NBA Draft, and he could have made a case this tournament to go number one overall.

However, the Tigers’ Achilles heel, their free-throw shooting (Memphis ranked among the worst teams in college basketball at the charity stripe), came back to bite them in the end. They held a nine-point lead with two minutes remaining before missing four of their last five free throws in regulation. There were other miscues, like allowing a steal and a three-pointer while inbounding the ball under Kansas’ basket, and center Joey Dorsey fouling out on a bone-headed bumping call 25 feet from the basket, that helped seal the Tigers’ fate, but the biggest mistake came as they were up by three with 10.2 seconds left.

After Rose made one of two free throws, he allowed Collins to get up the court without fouling him. Collins gave up the ball to Chalmers, who coolly dropped in a three to send the game into overtime. Kansas took control in overtime and snatched the national title from Memphis.

Chalmers finished with 18 points and four steals and the Most Outstanding Player award. Rose finished with 18 points, eight assists and six rebounds and was one free throw short of receiving the MOP award himself.