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Some thoughts ... from San Antonio
Tom Keegan, Journal-World sports editor
"Toughness, relentless pursuit of loose balls, defensive intensity. All the qualities Bill Self demands of his players were on display as Kansas stormed to a 40-12 lead on the night the bitterness over Roy Williams departure to North Carolina should have ended once and for all. After stumbling badly in the middle of the game, Kansas closed in great fashion, looking supremely confident and ready for Monday night's national title game.
Ryan Greene, KUSports.com editor
"All of Brandon Rush's teammates on Friday shared the story of Rush 'snapping' in practice earlier in the week. Russell Robinson said it was just the second time he'd ever seen that happen. Mario Chalmers said it meant Rush would be locked in. That he was, scoring a game-high 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting (9-of-10 from two-point range). I'd say that's 'locked in'. Though Saturday may have just been an opening act for Rush, as his college career (most likely done after Monday) now faces its biggest challenge - Rush will go head-to-head with Memphis' Chris Douglas-Roberts in probably the most key matchup of the title tilt."
Ryan Wood, Journal-World sports reporter
"Be afraid of Memphis. The Tigers are as good as their 38-1 record indicates, and they completely dominated a 35-3 UCLA team in its third straight Final Four. Kansas probably has a little more depth, but the Jayhawks' athletic superiority they usually count on won't be there. Memphis is a team of freaks. It's a wash.
"May the best team win, but I'm not sure which one that is at this point."
Inside the numbers
25: Brandon Rush played yet another great game during his late season tear, this time scoring a game-high 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting. Doing most of his damage lately from long range, Rush was 9-of-10 from inside the arc on a night in which several of his three tries rattled out. Rush also had seven rebounds and helped push the pace as well as anyone.
17: Bill Self said after the game he felt Cole Aldrich may have been as important as anyone in KU's win. The freshman big man played 17 minutes, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots - most of that coming in the first half. His 13 minutes before halftime were huge in spelling both Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson, who had early foul trouble. He proved pivotal during KU's 25-2 run, one that pushed the Jayhawks ahead by a margin as large as 28 points.
50: All the hype in the week leading up to this game revolved around Tyler Hansbrough (talking about the players involved, not those on the sidelines). 'Psycho T' was held below his averages, finishing with 17 points and nine assists (came in averaging roughly 23 and 11), and KU proved that post depth overcomes star power on most nights. Darrell Arthur stepped up defensively on Hansbrough, along with Aldrich. Arthur had six points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. KU outrebounded UNC 42-33 on the night.
7: The pace of the game was one that UNC was familiar with, but playing so much in terms of one-on-one in transition was foreign to the Tar Heels. Carolina's fast break game usually relies on quick, pinpoint passes which result in easy buckets. Saturday night, though, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Ty Lawson had to do plenty without the help of others. As a team, UNC had just seven assists to 18 turnovers. Lawson, regarded as one of the nation's most efficient point guards, had nine points, just two assists and two turnovers.
3: Russell Robinson came into this weekend as the least heralded of the four starting point guards in a historic Final Four field. While Lawson and UCLA's Darren Collison both struggled, Robinson was his same old efficient self, with a final line including seven points (a big early three-pointer starting things off), four rebounds, four assists (to just one turnover) and three steals.
Just in case you missed it ...
One of the more heart-wrenching moments of the night came in the final minutes, just before the fans started their traditional Rock Chalk chant. The first chanted the name of Rodrick Stewart, KU's fifth-year senior reserve who suffered a season-ending knee injury in a freak accident Friday at practice while going up for a flashy dunk. Combined with the pain he was feeling with his right leg propped up behind the bench, Stewart broke down into tears before exiting the floor. He served as a source of inspiration for his team all night, with teammates keeping him involved by giving him words of encouragement during each break in the action.
Hopefully you didn't miss it ...
Aside from getting KU into its first title game since 2003, Saturday's win over North Carolina should sufficiently bury the hatchet in terms of the way Roy Williams left the program following that loss to Syracuse. The Jayhawk faithful craved the Carolina matchup since that day, got it and saw their team succeed. That should be that, and now every time KU and UNC meet in the future with Roy Williams still in power at Carolina, the storyline should be nothing more than a footnote.
They said it ...
Rodrick Stewart on watching the game hurt and losing control of his emotions late: "They used it as motivation, and every time they came over in the timeout, they would just say 'Keep your head up' and stuff like that. But it's all about the team. I don't know if my knee really helped motivate us. I hope it did. It looked like it did. Whatever worked. Played with a lot of energy and had a lot of fun out there ... I was over there crying, trying to hold it in the whole time, but I think that set it off a little bit with the fans chanting my name."
Sasha Kaun on Cole Aldrich's contributions Saturday: "He played the best game of his career. I think he did a phenomenal job. He came out strong, got some boards, made some shots, and he was a huge, huge, huge help to us."
Sasha Kaun on comparing going against Tyler Hansbrough to Michael Beasley: "They're both great players. They're so different from each other in a way that Beasley is more of a talent and Hansbrough's such a hard worker, and he always fights. Beasley can just take you off the perimeter, so creative with the ball."
Darrell Arthur on the efficiency KU played with: "If we keep playing the way we've been playing and come out like that (Monday), I don't think anybody can beat us."
Darrell Arthur on answering UNC's second half run: "I think those guys got winded, because they were down 28 and had to make a massive comeback, so I think those guys got tired and we just took advantage of those guys on our offensive end."
Sherron Collins on Memphis: "They're tough. They're fast, tough, strong, similar to our guards. We'll be ready to play them, though ... We feel confident. We feel we're one of the best teams in the country and it'll be proven Monday."
Sherron Collins on the game's pace Saturday: "Everybody keeps saying 'their pace', but it's our pace. We've played like that all season. That's the big thing. Everybody's saying 'How you gonna stop them? How you gonna run with them?' How you gonna stop us? We run, too. I think that played into our hand, everybody's worried about how we're going to run with them and we ran them."
Mario Chalmers on the huge first half lead: "I kinda was surprised, but I knew a lot of it had to do with them missing a lot of shots and we were hitting our shots. Our defense was excellent tonight, so it was hard for them to get going ... Once we got them down, we just wanted to make sure we kept them down and were able to do that."
Cole Aldrich on his performance against Tyler Hansbrough: "It was a blast. I don't even know what to say, because he's such a great player, and just being able to be on the same court, in the Final Four, in San Antonio, playing against him, it's a huge honor ... We've got four really good big guys, and I don't know if he's quite gone against four big guys like that. We just tried to double the post, constantly deny the post and keep him off the glass."
Cole Aldrich on literally taking a rebound away from Tyler Hansbrough: "I wasn't gonna let it go. I got it, and I was like 'He's gonna try his dangdest to get this, and I won't let him.'"
Bill Self on Cole Aldrich: "I thought Cole was the best player in the game for a stretch in the first half. We're playing out of foul trouble, Sasha gets two minutes and Darnell gets seven the first half, and we didn't have to play out of kilter because he was so good ... He may have won the game for us as much as anybody because he bought us so many great minutes."
Bill Self on answering UNC's run: "When I was at Tulsa, in my first NCAA Tournament game, we had College of Charleston down 52-26, and they missed a three to take the lead with a minute left, then we end up winning by nine ... We knew they were gonna make a run. We hoped they wouldn't have got to four, but we went braindead for awhile. We kept clipping off shots when shots weren't going down, and then their best offense was our offense because we just threw it to them to start the second half and they went and made layups ... The thing I was most proud of, on the biggest stage, they were in the attack mode for 40 minutes."
Bill Self on where motivation came from Saturday: "All we talked about was Carolina (their players, not going against Roy Williams). Our players care about guarding Lawson, Ellington and Hansbrough. They were on the circuits together. Ty was the best point guard, Sherron was the second-best point guard coming out. That's what everybody said. Mario wanted to go against Ellington. That's what our motivation was."
Bill Self on what is now guaranteed to be KU's last game of the season: "I think it's great, because we can all hibernate and get some rest in a little bit. Coaches are like this: They never want the season to end, but when they do, they're really glad. I know Cal and I are both gonna be really happy that the season's over - of course one of us is gonna be ecstatic and one of us will struggle for awhile. But I told our guys before, I'm really looking forward to practice tomorrow. And I am. When you get to this point, everything is the last ... And we're ready for it to end. We just didn't want it to end until Monday."