Kansas Takes It
Jayhawks Strike While the Iron's Cold for Tigers' Free Throw Shooters, Forcing OT on Late 3-Pointer and Pulling Away for First Title Since 1988: Kansas 75, Memphis 68
Tuesday, April 8, 2008; Page E01
SAN ANTONIO, April 7 -- Kansas Coach Bill Self locked his assistants in a tight embrace, and Jayhawks players pranced around the Alamodome court amid a confetti celebration that vanquished two decades of NCAA basketball tournament frustration and national championship near-misses.
But Kansas's thrilling 75-68 overtime victory against Memphis on Monday will be remembered as much for the Jayhawks' first national championship since 1988 as it will be for Memphis squandering a nine-point lead with 2 minutes 12 seconds remaining. An NCAA tournament filled with blowouts and mismatches featured a classic finale that included clutch shots by Kansas and gut-wrenching missed foul shots by Memphis, a team that had been plagued by inept free throw shooting all season.
"I am still kind of numb," Memphis Coach John Calipari said. "It will probably hit me like a ton of bricks tomorrow. We had it in our grasp. You have the kind of lead we have, you are supposed to win the game."
Kansas (37-3) outscored Memphis 24-8 over the final 7:12 of the game, including the overtime period. Kansas guard Mario Chalmers, who made the three-pointer that tied the score with 2.1 seconds remaining in regulation, was named the Final Four's most outstanding player.
"I thought it was going in when it left my hand," Chalmers said. "It felt good when I released it."
Said Self: "It was probably the biggest shot ever made in Kansas history."
All season, Memphis ranked among the nation's worst free throw shooting teams, making less than 60 percent of its shots from the line. And all season Calipari told everyone that his team would make them when it counted.
Memphis (38-2) had made 70.2 of its free throws through five NCAA tournament games, but the Tigers two best players, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, saw great performances in the title game overshadowed by missing a combined three free throws in the final 16 seconds of regulation.
After Rose made only 1 of 2 free throws to make the score 63-60 with 10.8 seconds remaining, Kansas raced the ball upcourt, and Sherron Collins dribbled toward the three-point arc against Rose. With a three-point lead, Calipari had instructed his players to foul.
"We pushed the guy to the floor," Calipari said, "but we didn't foul hard enough."
Collins flipped a pass to Chalmers, who released a high-arcing three-pointer over the hands of Rose to tie the score. Memphis's Joey Dorsey, who had fouled out on an ill-advised play 1:23 to play, put his hands on his knees and bowed his head.
Kansas had all the momentum entering overtime, and Memphis was forced to play without its best interior player.