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Monday, March 12, 2007

WE ARE FIGHTERS

Biggest comeback in school history lands KU tourney title

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Mario Chalmers stood on the Ford Center court late Sunday afternoon, next in line to climb the ladder and take a snip out of the south net.

"We are fighters," Chalmers said defiantly, referring to a Kansas University basketball team that erased a 22-point deficit and scratched and clawed its way to an 88-84 overtime Big 12 tournament championship victory over Texas.

It's the same Texas team that led KU by 15 points on March 3 in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks rallied to victory that day, as well.

"We'll play hard every day. We are never going to give up. We'll always come back. I'm loving this. Now I'm ready to cut me a piece of net," exclaimed Chalmers, whose three with 15 seconds left tied the score at 79 and ultimately forced overtime after Kevin Durant (37 points) missed a well-guarded baseline jumper with two ticks to play.

KU, which minutes after the game was rewarded with a No. 1 seed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament and first-round matchup against either Florida A&M or Niagara at 6:10 p.m. Friday in Chicago, outscored the Longhorns, 9-5, in overtime and capped the biggest comeback in Jayhawk history.

The Jayhawks, who were down 32-10 with 8:10 left in the half, trailed UCLA by 19 points before rallying to beat the Bruins, 85-70, in 1995 in Allen Fieldhouse.

"Anytime you can be part of history, it's amazing," said Russell Robinson. His 15-footer with 2:19 left in overtime broke an 81-81 tie and gave the Jayhawks the lead for good. He also cashed two free throws with 5.3 ticks left, upping an 86-84 lead to insurmountable four-point margin.

"It shows how tough we are. I think a year ago we may have come back, but would not have finished it off like that. It shows how mature and confident we've become," Robinson added.

It took a lot of big plays to subdue the Longhorns and, more specifically, Durant, whose 37 points tied for 10th most by an opponent in KU history.

"Was that the biggest comeback in KU history?" KU coach Bill Self asked after shaking the hands of well wishers on the court during a wild victory celebration.

"Good thing we cut it off at 22. I don't think we could have come back from 23," he cracked.

"It shows you how good KU basketball has been to not get behind by 22. It was great to do it in this setting."

The Jayhawks, who had suspect defense early came up with some big defensive plays late.

Brandon Rush, who along with Julian Wright was named to the all-tournament team, blocked D.J. Augustin's shot from the corner with a minute left in OT, KU up by three. Later, KU still up by three, Darnell Jackson blocked Augustin's drive to the hoop and cupped the ball in his hands.

After getting fouled, Jackson swished two free throws to give KU the 86-81 advantage, immediately sliced two points after a three by A.J. Abrams at 8.3 seconds.

"We call it 'strong help,'" Self said of Jackson helping on the baseline. "Darnell made a great play and made the free throws. Our free-throw shooting (20 of 23) saved us today. Many nights it's hurt us."

Jackson, who grew up in Oklahoma City, had six points and seven boards in 26 minutes, playing on a day Darrell Arthur went just 12 minutes because of a bruised pelvic bone suffered two minutes into in the second half.

"I don't feel like a hero. I'm no hero," Jackson said. "We don't have one hero on the team. I'm just glad I got the block and made the free throws. I stepped up there and said, 'I've got to make them.'

After Robinson's two free throws upped KU's lead to 88-84, Durant missed a jumper at :02, the clock running out and giving regular-season champ KU another title.

Wright, who had 19 points off 8-of-13 shooting (Sherron Collins was leading scorer with 20 off 8-of-18 shooting; Rush potted 19 and Chalmers 17), raised two hands in the air at midcourt then minutes later hugged Jackson during the awards ceremony.
















Go figure

87.0 Kansas' free-throw percentage against Texas66.0Kansas' season free-throw percentage before Sunday22 Texas' biggest lead, at in the first half5 KU's largest lead, with 6:06 remaining in regulation5, 3 Overtime games played by Texas, KU this season3-0 Kansas' record in overtime games this season2-3 Texas' record in OT contests this season1/4Seeds given to Kansas/Texas for the NCAA Tournament

"I said, 'We did it,'" Wright said. "We believe in each other. We didn't get worried. We knew Texas would come out on fire against us. They like coming out the first four minutes and being unstoppable.

"We practice being down, every day. We have situations where we are down four, five, six points and fight to get back the lead. Coach knows we can come back. Every time out he says, 'chip at it, chip at it.'''

KU is good at chipping at leads of the Longhorns, who dropped to 24-9 compared to KU's 30-4 mark.

"They don't like to guard that much," Robinson noted. "So you know you can get back in the game. It's a matter of everybody playing their part, stepping up and making plays. I'm just glad to be a part of it."

As is Self, who, though proud, admitted, "trust me we don't want to get down 22 again. The thing is ... our defense was terrible early. But I need to look at the film. Was it us or him (Durant)? He's the best I've ever seen."

This might have been one of the best games Self has seen.

"It was a fun game to coach and play in," Self said. "What a great atmosphere. To me there wasn't that much pressure in the game today. The pressure was getting to today. I just think it was a great game to be part of, a great great day."

Comments

MarcoPolo 7 years, 6 months ago

What an absolute superb team effort! Great, great win!!

Who would have ever thought that free-throws would save the day for KU....but they did. KU does not win this game without excellent free-throw shooting.

Many of us fans think that this is a better team than the Heinrich/Collison team of recent history. Certainly, this team is much deeper and more talented. As Bill Self says, the team really has 8 starters....

I'm looking forward to mulitple wins in the Big Dance. Go Hawks!!!

(Probably not a popular comment, but I think KSU got a raw deal not making the dance, but it just goes to show how really weak the Big 12 North is. KSU will be a tough out next year and beyond; I just hope the other north schools upgrade their teams as well.)

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Trey Hohman 7 years, 6 months ago

K-State did get a raw deal and I think the argument about Tech playing two games in a row in the Big 12 tourney and thus being fatigued is total poppy-cock. Maybe if Tech lost to K-State by three points or less they could then attribute the loss to fatigue and call it a wash...But 21 points is inexcusable to lose to a fellow bubble team and then to make it ahead of that particular team. I'm pretty sure that the white collar powers that be who make these informed decisions on all at large bids for the most part don't share Huggy Bear's lifestyle choices and may find his recruiting techniques and graduation rates a bit on the shady side and I think those two items in particular come into play more than anyone on the NCAA panel would ever admit...Bobby Knight on the other hand, graduates almost all of his players and preaches to small children the importance of reading during his off time, while Huggybear probably has several high-ball scotches and a pack of Marlboro Reds ever night after the season ends. If I were him, I'd have had about 6 scotches by now after getting the news today..Just don't drive anywhere Huggy. You have enough money now to call a cab or one of your "ladyfriends" to come and pick you up you pimp..Come to think of it, who wouldn't want to be Huggynear at least one month out of the year?.... Mizzou will be better next year also. That will help the North quite a bit to have them be at least as competitive as Texas Tech hopefully. So many coaching changes from last year had to take a minor toll on the league as a whole.. Ebs & Flows in this league. Except for our team and perhaps Texas..Possibly A & M if their coach stays awhile. And Huggybear's team if he can get his athletes to stay away from the infamous Manhattan Strip Bars...

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Studogg 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree with you, Marco. But please, please tell me you just "accidentally" hit a wrong key when you were spelling Kirk Hinrich's name. How long have you been a KU fan?

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JNgohawks 7 years, 6 months ago

I remember the ucla game, they were smocking us in the first half. At halftime roy told Jacque, Pierce, Raef and the boys he was embarressed and they should be too. We were beyond empressive in the 2nd half. This game yesterday was strange. As texas was building a monster lead I don't know what I was thinking. Man are we getting killed, things like that, but that turn around yesterday is one for the history books of basketball, unbelievable!!

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Craig Lang 7 years, 6 months ago

"I don't feel like a hero. I'm no hero," Jackson said. "We don't have one hero on the team. I'm just glad I got the block and made the free throws. I stepped up there and said, 'I've got to make them.'

What a great attitude for a team player! I think early on in the season these players suffered from being too unselfish, opting to pass instead of taking the open shot. They've finally figured out the right formula of passing/shooting and have come together as a team. Together, these guys can take on players like Durant, Oden and Law (IV) who sometimes look like they are the only players on their respective teams.

I agree that K-State got stiffed in relation to the tournament. I also do not think it is an indicator that the Big 12 North is weak, but rather an indicator that the committee spent too much time listening to the sports analysts who perpetuated the myth that the Big 12 North was weak.

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ColfromColorado 7 years, 6 months ago

There were seven players on this team who the media recorded messages from. All seven were posted so we could listen to each one of them. And each one was of prime importance in the win over Texas. Another player who didn't get hurt, but was important to the victory didn't get interviewed. And without another player getting hurt, there could have been nine players messages posted.

How many teams in America have that many important, talented players who contributed to the victory that they need to interview every one of them? It speaks very well to the depth and 'Family' of this team.

Yes, they do seem to have found their pass/shoot balance. Last year while they were getting thrashed in Hawaii I said KU would become a team no other team in America wants to have to play. It looks like they have arrived. :-)

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jayhawkseminole 7 years, 6 months ago

Great effort by the team, kudos to the whole team. I have something to say though, the 2nd round game scares me.

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cellogrl 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree that K-State got screwed by not being in the NCAA tourney. I don't think that it should have been a toss-up between them and Tech. I think that both teams deserved it. I do think that Syracuse got screwed too though.

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scottku1 7 years, 6 months ago

I promise I do not live under a rcok but who was the Tourney MVP??

Great comeback guys!!!!

Keep it up!!!

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bmcmich1 7 years, 6 months ago

Second round game is scary and it will take some serious effort to win it, but my god look at what we accomplished in that game yesterday. I don't see either Kentucky or 'Nova being as good as Texas, so hopefully playing them will prime us to beat anyone in the West. Some may disagree, but I really don't think that anyone in our region is as good as the team we saw yesterday.

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JayCeph 7 years, 6 months ago

Durant was MVP and Wright and Rush made the 'all conference team.'

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KURUSH1530 7 years, 6 months ago

Okay, let's end all this talk about K-State getting a raw deal. They played a weak schedule and only had 2 quality wins, one of which Bill Walker was involved in. They beat nobody of quality down the stretch. However, if walker had not been hurt, I think they would have stood an excellent chance of making the tournament. Now, on to the Hawks. I can't believe they'd give the number two seed in our region a home game against us if we face off in the elite eight. Why does the country dislike our Hawks so much?

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bowers79 7 years, 6 months ago

This Jayhawks team is no joke! They have a lot of moxie this year. I don't know what it's like dealing with all the pressure that the staff and players deal with in their day to day lives. With everything that people continue to say, and think the Jayhawks proved other wise. The Hawks played yesterday like they were at the Field House and that means a lot. I liked the fact that the Hawks final score was 88, does that number mean anything to anyone? Go Hawks, and thank you for this great feeling that your fans all over the world are feeling because of the amazing year you've had so far.

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sevenyearhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

color me impressed ...

coming back against Texas, not once, but TWICE!

just think if we'd knocked their football team off in Lawrence a couple years ago - OUR programs would be even BIGGER rivals now!!!


NOT a SINGLE "B" team to be found in KU's bracket, but almost THIRTY national titles ... are you kidding me?

KU - 2, Duke - 3, Indiana - 5, Kentucky - 7, UCLA - 11 ... do the math, crazy!!!


K-State TOTALLY got shafted, how do you beat Tech, then they get a tourney invite? Purdue, Arkansas, Illinois? Did they really merit consideration?

I have a friend who was in a BAD, BAD car accident last year, he's in rehab in Illinois ... I actually bought him a KSU hoops shirt to show off, thinking they were IN after beating Tech, boy do I look like a jerk now!

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Jaminrawk 7 years, 6 months ago

My dream would be for KU, Texas and Texas A&M to make it all the way to Atlanta. Something tells me at least one of these three will get there. If it isn't KU, I'll root for either one of the other two.

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Seth Peattie 7 years, 6 months ago

BEAK 'EM HAWKS! SUCK IT EVERYONE ELSE!!!!!

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Chris Bohling 7 years, 6 months ago

Durant getting MVP is ridiculous. Sure, he scored an insane number of points, but he didn't do enough work to win the tournament. MVP was clearly Brandon Rush, who was the lynchpin to all of KU's victories.

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chalmersfan15 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree with you chell. He did have a lot of points, but Brandon Rush played a lot better.

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digitalkookie 7 years, 6 months ago

well said LAJayhawk...my feelings exactly!!!

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bigroj 7 years, 6 months ago

Not sure B-Rush deserves the MVP. He had a good third game and definitely D'd up Durant better than anyone else Self threw at him...but this was an absolute team effort.
Collins, Wright, Rush and Chalmers did outstanding in the third game once they got their rhythm going. But I'm not sure we would have won that game without Chalmers' 3-pointer; man, is that guy 'clutch' or what?
I do hate it when someone gets an MVP and their team didn't win; they are never there to get it and it's like the biggest 'back-handed compliment' you can give someone.

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filmhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

this may be my favorite ku team ever. i love the fact that all of the players play within their roles, and depending on their match-ups, every one of 9 players is capable of winning a game for us. it is a true case study in the whole "a chain is only as strong as it's weekest link" deal.

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BigTrav 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm sort of torn how I feel about KSU getting left out of the tournament. I feel that any team that beats Texas w/ Durant on that team, had to play a pretty damn good game. I also think that their weak non-conference schedule wasn't deserving, however that was something out of Huggins control. Because the Big 12 is underrated there always seems to be a team that gets left out.

Some friends and I were talking about solutions on how to include teams that finish the season with 20+ wins and a winning conference record without actually adding teams to the field of 64. One idea that we came up with was this, once the conference tournaments are finished, seed 60 teams in the current field and then schedule the games to begin the second thursday. The previous week, seed 32 teams who failed to make the field of 60 and instead of having an NIT, play a tournament of Bubble teams. The teams that finish in the top 4 advance to play the #1 seeds in the first round. So in essence instead of having a 65th team play another team, you have 8 teams playing to determine who gets to play the #1 seed in the main bracket. It's just a thought and I think it would draw more interest than what the NIT tournament currently does. I know I haven't watched an NIT game, ever!

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sevenyearhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

they were just saying on 610 sports in KC that it is VERY likely that at some point in the future that there will be FOUR play-in games, thus expanding the field to 68 ...

i can get with this, but let's not expand it any more ...

64 was a nice, round number ...

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cobweb 7 years, 6 months ago

Does everybody now understand where Bill Self is coming from?

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Trey Hohman 7 years, 6 months ago

Am I crazy but does Chalmers remind anyone else of Isiah Thomas? I cannot believe he was not tourney MVP, but even more insulting, not even on the all tournament team. And for that matter, only Honorable mention all Big 12? Ridiculous. I'd take him over AC Law...

Losing in the second round would be comparible to losing in last year's first round game. I think the Hawks are very aware of that and whomever we play in round two is hopefully going to get smoked because "we are fighters". We might beat Kentucky so bad that poor Tubby may find out that he was fired the during the post-game interviews....

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tis4tim 7 years, 6 months ago

bowers79, you said: "I liked the fact that the Hawks final score was 88, does that number mean anything to anyone?"

I didn't think about that...that is pretty cool though.

How about the fact too (one I did think about) that we won our 50th conference championship this year and the halftime score of that '88 game was tied at 50-50 in the 50th NCAA championship game? Subtle signs? Maybe so. Maybe not. It's fun to think about, though.

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CasperCorps 7 years, 6 months ago

How great is it to have two more banners to the Field House!!!! Big Twelve Regular Season Champs and Tournament Champs... Too bad a great game and accomplishments seemed to be overlooked by the NCAA tourney.. Any other school and they would have shut down town, but wait...... this isn't any other school.. Great game, season and good luck in the tourney... Rockem Hawks...!

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saad007 7 years, 6 months ago

Man I'm all the way overseas, and I would pay anything to watch our beloved hawks win it all. the thing is all i can do is watch the game summary, which sucks, I have never missed a single ku game in my 6 year career at KU, and now i can't watch the tourney! that's really sad. If anyone know a website or some way of watching the games from overseas, please send me an email at "saifeddine@hotmail.com". I would greatly appreciate it. But anyways, I'm so proud of our hawks, I hope they won't be over-excited with this great comeback and take the first game lightly. But i'm sure they wont ;) Go Hawks, Rock Chalk for life!!!!!!

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Robert Murphy 7 years, 6 months ago

May I make a suggestion? Don't wait tell your 22 points behind to start playing. This kind of play will not make it in the NCAA Tournament. Please stay within 20. OK

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Robert Murphy 7 years, 6 months ago

Remember, Jason Kidd couldn't beat us. What makes Kevin Durant think he can?

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chrismikehead 7 years, 6 months ago

saad,

Check out March Madness on Demand from CBS here:

http://www.ncaasports.com/mmod/welcome

I think it only covers the first three rounds, but that would be something.

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William James 7 years, 6 months ago

007-That sucks. I know how you feel. In 2003 I was overseas when Hinrich and Collison went into beast mode against Duke and Arizona. I found out a few days after the Arizona game.

KURUSH-Your exactly right about us needing to go out to California to reach the Final Four. What is the point of getting a 1 seed if we are going to have to play road games to win our region. Its East Coast bull****. However, you are way off on K-State. They had quality wins over USC, Texas, and Texas Tech by 21. Lets see, that almost 30 points better than we did against Tech. K-State got screwed just like KU did.

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bigroj 7 years, 6 months ago

ihohman3...you couldn't have said it any better. I thought Mario got flat out snubbed. Let's see what happens over the next (hopefully) 5 games...redemption?? Go 'Hawks!

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