Las Vegas Joakim Noah and Al Horford are to college basketball what Tim Duncan and David Robinson used to be to the NBA: a tall, skilled, athletic tandem nobody in the game can match.
Except that late Saturday night in Orleans Arena, Kansas University had an answer for the twin towers from the defending national champion Florida Gators.
Noah and Horford were good, all right. It's just that the emotional Julian Wright and his stoic sidekick Darrell Arthur, set up nicely by the guards, were even better.
Wright's 17 first-half points, high energy and fancy passing carried KU to a six-point lead at the half.
"Julian in the first half was as good as a guy can be in college," appreciative KU coach Bill Self said.
Arthur, repeatedly demanding the ball in the stretch runs of regulation and overtime, catching nearly everything thrown his way, drawing foul after foul, and generally showing a great feel for the game, looked like anything but a freshman.
You might never again read this sentence about Billy Donovan's defending national champion Gators: Their starting guards outscored the other starting guards by 16 points and they still lost the game.
Also fueled by Brandon Rush's clutch, aggressive work on defense and on the defensive boards, Kansas made the champs taste defeat for the first time in a long time, 82-80, in overtime in front of a loud, proud KU crowd, part of which spilled onto the court after Corey Brewer's three-point attempt at the buzzer clanged off the rim.
Arthur, limited to three minutes in the first half because he had two quick fouls, finished with 19 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes. Wright, the MVP of the Las Vegas Invitational, contributed 21 points and 10 rebounds. Combined, that's 40 points and 19 rebounds, compared to 26 and 12 for Noah and Horford.
"We've been waiting for this game ever since summertime," Arthur said. "It was like the talk of the town, us and Florida. We just went to see who was going to be the best tonight."
The players met in the team hotel after a lackluster effort Friday night against Ball State.
"We were just saying how we need to come closer as a team," Arthur said. "The Oral Roberts game : we're always going to remember that. It was a slow start for us. Hopefully, tonight's game gave us some confidence and we can just keep feeding off of it."
While Arthur and Noah got into early foul trouble, Wright made sure to stay on the floor, and that's why KU was able to take a 37-31 lead over the defending national champions into the locker room.
On those nights when his mind, which forever travels at a million miles an hour, and his body move at the same pace, Wright sprinkles energy up and down the roster and into the stands. He's a blast to watch play at such times and an absolute terror to play against.
He can't match Florida's players in either bulk or big-game experience, but even as nimble as the Gators are, they can't match Wright for quickness.
Driving off of shot fakes and throwing down a variety of slams, Wright made Orleans Arena sound an awful lot like Allen Fieldhouse and the Jayhawks played up to that Sports Illustrated cover projection.