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Tears began to stream down Kansas University senior Rodrick Stewart's face as crimson-and-blue-clad fans in the Alamodome began to chant his name in the closing moments of the Jayhawks' 84-66 Final Four semifinal victory over North Carolina.
"I couldn't help it. It made me feel so good. I hope people realize how great that made me feel," Stewart said after watching the Jayhawks' 84-66 victory from the end of the bench.
The Seattle native couldn't play because of the freak season-ending knee injury he suffered trying a dunk at the end of Friday's shootaround.
He fractured his right kneecap on the dunk try and will have surgery Wednesday in Lawrence.
"It's definitely depressing being my senior year. You work your whole life for this moment, and now I can't play," Stewart said. "I was in so much pain over there (sitting on bench). The final buzzer took the pain away."
The Jayhawks made Stewart feel great as they entered their winning locker room at the Alamodome.
"They said, 'This is for you,''' Stewart said. "We're all like brothers here. We've been through so much together. It meant a lot to me."
Sophomore guard Sherron Collins said: "This whole thing (tonight) was for Rod. He means a lot to everybody on the team."
Stewart said he'd be back on the court in four months or so and will try to continue playing professionally.
"I saw the X-rays. It was nasty," he said of his fractured kneecap. "I watched the replay on TV. I got all tensed up watching my knee. I could have had the surgery the day it happened, but I want to be here to see this. I want to be with my teammates."
Stewart, like the rest of the Jayhawks, said he was impressed by coach Bill Self's pregame speech to the troops.
"He said, 'You practice every day for this. Don't be satisfied getting to he Final Four. Don't be satisfied until you win the whole thing.'"
KU vs. Memphis: KU will meet Memphis at 8:21 p.m. Monday in the national title game.
"They've got great guards, great all-around team. They've been on top most of the season," senior Russell Robinson said of the Tigers, who have just one loss against 38 victories.
"We probably are 1-2 in the country in lobs," Self joked. "We know they have a great team. It'll be a great challenge. I just told our guys, 'I'm looking forward to practice tomorrow.' It's our last practice, and we get to prepare for the biggest game of the year.'"
Williams to watch finale: North Carolina coach Roy Williams indicated after the game he would stick around for the national title game. Rest assured he'll be rooting for KU. Williams posed for pictures for hordes of KU fans on a Friday night walk on the River Walk. He even hung out for a bit at KU hangout "Rita's," chatting with KU fans.
Manning to be inducted: KU assistant coach Danny Manning will be named an inductee in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, which is located in Kansas City, today.
Faces in crowd: Former Jayhawks seated in the KU section included: Eric Chenowith, Greg Dreiling, Greg Gurley, Jeff Hawkins, Mike Maddox, Scot Pollard, Ryan Robertson, Bud Stallworth. Former KU head coaches Larry Brown and Ted Owens attended as well as former KU assistant Tim Jankovich. Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie also attended in support of his buddy, Self.
Big trey: Collins, on his clutch three that upped a five-point lead to eight with 5:31 left: "I was open, and when I'm open coach tells me to shoot it," Collins said. "I took something from coach before the game today. He said, 'Don't wait for things to happen, take it. If you want it, take it.' All of us tried to do that today."
Words of wisdom: Darnell Jackson, relating the team's unofficial motto: "Anything is possible for us."