2008-04-11 / Sports

Kansas,Coach With National Championship Win

By Ryan Woerner

Kansas,Coach Self,Break Brackets With National Championship Win

Players from Kansas and Memphis fight for the ball.
When Kansas guard Mario Chalmers released his three-point attempt with 2.1 seconds remaining in the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship and his team down to Memphis 63-60, fans across the country were thinking, 'This can't be happening.' Memphis was up 60-51 with 2:12 left in the game. Coach John Calipari was well on his way to a first national title with a Memphis program that nobody would have been able to spot on a map ten years ago. The Tiger players were finally going to erase the stigma they had gotten from many media outlets labeling them as a "streetball team." Unfortunately, under the hot lights of San Antonio's Alamo Dome, the Kansas Jayhawks had a different script in mind.

"I had a good look at [the shot]). When it left my hands it felt like it was good, and it just went in," said Chalmers, who scored 18 points on the night.

After Kansas tied the game at 63 with Chalmers three pointer, Robert Dozier of Memphis missed a desperation prayer in the waning seconds and the game was sent to overtime. With a breath of new life and plenty of momentum, Bill Self's Jayhawks scored the first three baskets of overtime and never looked back. When the final buzzer sounded and the scoreboard read 75-68, only one thing was left for Kansas to do: cut down the nets.

The game was predominately a back and forth affair between the two teams that were very similar in style and player makeup. Both Kansas and Memphis brought strong backcourts to the table; with role-playing big men who could either come up big or falter with the game on the line. Both teams were extremely athletic and liked to push the ball up in transition. They did have their distinct differences, however. While Memphis liked to isolate its star guards on the perimeter, Kansas ran more of a motion style offense to get more players involved. The team game paid off for Kansas, who got big time performances from forward Darrell Arthur as well as their already strong backcourt of Chalmers and Brandon Rush. Arthur had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the game, numbers well above his season average.

For Memphis, it was the same old story with a different ending. All season they got huge performances from standout guards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, relying on them for a majority of the team offense. This night was no different, as the two combined for 40 points in 87 total minutes of play. The difference maker came in free throw shooting, a stat line that has haunted the Tigers all season long. Ranking 339 out of 341 Division 1 programs with a 59 percent season average from the charity stripe, the Tigers missed 4 of 5 free throws in the last 1:12 of the contest. Kansas benefited from Memphis' foul shooting woes and helped their own cause by going 14 of 15 from the line. At the line with just 11.1 on the clock, Memphis freshman Derrick Rose made the front end of a one-and-one, but missed the second to keep it a one-possession game and give the storied Kansas program one more shot.

"It will probably hit me like a ton of bricks tomorrow that we had it in our grasp," said Calipari, the Memphis coach known for motivating his team by selling them on an "us against the world" attitude. Despite over 400 wins as a Division 1 head coach, Calipari has yet to lead a team to a national title. With Senior Joey Dorsey graduating and Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas Roberts considering making the jump to the NBA, it does not appear that he will achieve the feat next season either.

So how about that. Another dramatic ending to one of the United States' most prized sporting events. With all but one of the Elite 8 and semifinal round games being blowouts, many fans were left going into Monday night wondering if this was going to be a relatively uneventful final stretch of the NCAA tournament.

One thing is for sure. Whoever watched this game did not go to sleep disappointed.

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