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Plenty of Twists, One Final Turn

Mario Chalmers drills a miraculous three-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime Monday night and Kansas owns the extra period to win the national championship for the first time since 1988.

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By John Feinstein
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

SAN ANTONIO

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In the end, foul shooting and a foul not committed cost Memphis the national championship Monday night.

But the case can also be made that what won Kansas the national championship was the Jayhawks' experience in tight games. Playing in a tough conference all season, having to beat back their own self-doubts to withstand Davidson in the region final, having to hang on against an on-rushing North Carolina team Saturday -- all of it prepared the Jayhawks for their most difficult test in their most important game.

Down by nine with 2 minutes 12 seconds to play, Kansas never panicked. Memphis -- so close to its first national title -- was the team that lost its cool.

After the Tigers' Derrick Rose made one free throw with 10.8 seconds left to make the score 63-60, Kansas, out of timeouts, rushed the ball downcourt.

"If we were up three, we were fouling," Memphis Coach John Calipari said. "I thought we fouled Sherron [Collins] before he got the ball to [Mario] Chalmers, but we didn't foul him hard enough."

Collins was able to get the ball to Chalmers, who -- as always seems to happen in these situations -- swished a three-pointer over Rose's outstretched arm with 2.1 seconds left to tie the score at 63 and send it into overtime.

As soon as Chalmers's shot hit the shot, there wasn't much doubt about the final outcome. When you are that close to a national championship and then blow it, you likely won't survive in overtime. Memphis didn't. Kansas scored the first six points of the extra session and never looked back, winning an improbable -- but richly deserved -- national title.

So, in the first title game to go into overtime since 1997, Kansas cut down the nets, Kansas went home with the trophy, Kansas will be the team that is now part of college basketball history.

Memphis will look back on a superb 38-2 season but never forget the opportunity lost, one it can never get back. Few things in sports hurt more than an overtime loss in a championship game. The stunned looks on the players' faces in these situations always tell the stories.

Sadly, they won't remember the 38 wins, just the one loss that will stay in their memories forever.


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