Danny Manning and Greg Dreiling had played some pretty wretched basketball most of the afternoon. They had combined to make three of 16 shots from the field, and had more turnovers than baskets or assists.
But their Kansas teammates and their coach, Larry Brown, would have preferred a continuation of that to having them foul out in the final five minutes, which heavily aided Duke's 71-67 victory in an NCAA basketball tournament semifinal today in Reunion Arena.
"Obviously, it was tough to play without them, especially down the stretch," Jayhawks guard Mark Turgeon said, his eyes red from the disappointment. "They're two great inside players. Maybe if we had just one of them in at the end, we get that last rebound that Duke's Danny Ferry got."
Dreiling, the 7-foot center, finished with one basket and six points before picking up his fifth foul on a charge with 5:41 to play. Manning, 6-11, had a season-low four points, 13 below his season and tournament averages, and fouled out with 2:47 left.
Still, Kansas' chance of winning dropped off dramatically without them. Dreiling had blocked three shots. And everybody in the building knew Manning could get six or eight quick points regardless of what he had done earlier.
Duke's Tommy Amaker, asked if he was a little relieved with both on the bench, smiled and said, "I was a lot relieved. They're so big. And those two work really well together. They look for each other around the basket. They're not that deep along the front line either, and the team wasn't as aggressive on the offensive or defensive end with those two guys out of the lineup."
Much of Manning's problem was the defense played by Duke's Mark Alarie. Said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, "Mark's defense on Manning was magnificent," he said. "I marveled at how he played Manning defensively."
Manning agreed that Alarie was tough. "He was always there with a hand in my face . . . but I took some shots I should have hit."
Even so, Alarie said he kept thinking, " 'This is where he's going to make his stretch run.' "
The last time Alarie said those words to himself preceded Manning's fifth foul.
Dreiling's problem was more his own doing. He got two early fouls and played scared.
"I think we both started tiptoeing around out there," he said. "And it's difficult to play that way. I hit the boards well early in each half. But there was always the worry about getting that next foul. And that's when you're bound to foul again. I was always worried about charging."
Asked about Manning's game, Turgeon summed up how much it hurt his team's overall performance. "We're used to getting 20 [points] from him. What did he have tonight, four? That's 16 points right there. I think he's the best player in the country. Not having him really hurt us."
And guard Cedric Hunter said, "Danny usually comes through for us at the end. The team plays a lot more confident when he's in there. I know I do."
It also hurt Kansas to have Chris Piper, a frail 6-8 reserve, playing center. "We had lots of size problems, with people guarding guys they wouldn't normally," Turgeon said.
Dreiling and Manning had to hurt the most of all the Jayhawks.
"Being a senior center, you want to be out there," Dreiling said. "It was just frustrating to sit there and watch. I know Danny felt the same way."