Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Greatest KU games: No. 6

Big second half lifts Roy to first Final Four

Kansas University’s Mark Randall goes up for a basket against Arkansas. Third-seeded KU upset Arkansas on March 23, 1991.

Kansas University’s Mark Randall goes up for a basket against Arkansas. Third-seeded KU upset Arkansas on March 23, 1991.


Editor’s note: This is the fifth story in the Journal-World’s series of the top 10 victories in Kansas University hoops history. Introducing No. 6:

Original story

Read Gary Bedore's original story from the No. 6 game.

Ten greatest games

As the countdown continues, look back at the ten greatest games here:

7 - Jacque's shot shocks Hoosiers

8 - Rallyin' in Allen

9 - Roy's boys run wild vs. 'Cats

10 - Collison hooks 'Horns


1991: March 23, in Charlotte, N.C., after knocking off No. 2 seed Indiana to advance to the Elite 8, Kansas upends top seed Arkansas (and Nolan Richardson's 40 minutes of hell) to advance to Final Four, where Roy Williams would coach against and defeat Dean Smith and KU would eventually lose to Duke in national title game.


1991: March 23, in Charlotte, N.C., after knocking off No. 2 seed Indiana to advance to the Elite 8, Kansas upends top seed Arkansas (and Nolan Richardson's 40 minutes of hell) to advance to Final Four, where Roy Williams would coach against and defeat Dean Smith and KU would eventually lose to Duke in national title game.

Kansas wasn't supposed to be able to hang with Arkansas.

Nolan Richardson's top-seeded Razorbacks were 34-3 and ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll for the majority of the season, behind only the undefeated and defending national champion UNLV Runnin' Rebels, who were responsible for one of Arkansas’ three losses. The Razorbacks’ trademark 40-minutes-of-hell brand of basketball had won them the Southwest Conference regular-season and tournament championships. Arkansas had won 10 games by more than 30 points, with a scoring margin of plus-19 points per game.

Kansas, seeded third, was 25-7 after starting the year 9-4. The Jayhawks had lost both their regular-season finale and their second-round Big Eight tournament games to Nebraska, and were led by third-year coach Roy Williams. Kansas was only 10-7 in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Alonzo Jamison, now an assistant basketball coach at Bethel College in North Newton, looked back on the team’s underdog role in that game.

“We didn't have any pressure. That was our theme,” Jamison said. “We were a three seed, and nobody really gave us a chance to do anything. Over the years, especially in the ’80s and ’90s, we had that little moniker where we didn't get a lot of respect. At that time, you know, they just thought Kansas was a flash in the pan.”

Future NBA draft picks started at four positions for the Razorbacks, with Todd Day, Oliver Miller, Lee Mayberry, and Isaiah Morris confusing opponents with their tenacious defense and aggressiveness.

So on March 23, 1991, when Day scorched the Jayhawks for 21 points in the first half in the Elite Eight in Charlotte Coliseum, and Arkansas had hit six three-pointers to cruise to a 47-35 halftime lead, it appeared the underdog Jayhawks were on their way out of the tournament.

“Coach rallied the troops at halftime and just said, ‘Hey, just do what I ask you to do and things will work out.’ And they did. (Charlotte Coliseum) was rocking just because it was a regional and a lot of people like to see the underdog win that type of game. It was fun, and I really think that the faithful there really wanted to see Arkansas get knocked off.”

Kansas outscored the Razorbacks 58-34 in the second half behind the stellar performance of Jamison, its 6-foot-6 junior forward. The Jayhawks jumped out quickly to open the second half, scoring eight straight to cut the lead to 47-43, including Jamison's second career three-pointer to cap the rally. Day’s 21 first-half points inspired Williams to change his approach.

“We kept fresh bodies on him, and I think that pretty much wore him out, because he wore us out in the first half, and in the second half he really didn't have the legs to finish on his shots,” Jamison said.

Day finished the second half with only five points, and Jamison could sense that the school's ninth Final Four was on the horizon when the clock wound down on a 93-81 KU victory.

“It was about six or seven seconds left, time was running down right then and there, and that's when I knew, it clicked in my brain that we were going to Indy,” he said. “That moment will never leave me for the rest of my life.”

Just two years removed from a post-season ban and three years from a national championship dubbed a miracle and facing a No. 1 seed, KU signaled it was ready to establish itself as a national power.

“Coach said, ‘Just believe in what I'm saying.’ And we believed in each other also,” Jamison said. “You can't make that type of a run in the NCAA Tournament without having faith in your teammates.”


Chris Shaw 8 years, 4 months ago

I was wondering if this game would be in the Top 10 list. I know I was talking about this game during the #7 thread. What amazed me about this 1991 team was their determination to prove everyone wrong.

I don't know if anybody remembers, but UNLV and Arkansas were perceived as the two best teams in college basketball that year. I remember very vividly the mid-season match-up between #1 UNLV and #2 Arkansas and all the trash talking that went on during the first part of that game. Todd Day and Larry Johnson kept jawing back and forth with one another.

I was just a kid at the time, but I remember thinking that KU was going to have their hands full beating Arkansas that was led by Todd Day, Lee Mayberry, and Oliver Miller.

If anyone is curious here is the Jayhawks box score for this game:

Kansas 93, Arkansas 81 1 2 T Kansas 35 58 93 Arkansas 47 34 81 Final March 23, 1991

Regional Final Game

KANSAS JAYHAWKS MIN FGM-A FTM-A OFF REB AST PF PTS Mark Randall 27 4-5 2-4 1 2 3 4 10 Kirk Wagner 5 1-1 2-2 0 0 0 0 4 Richard Scott 16 1-5 1-2 3 3 0 2 3 Sean Tunstall 18 3-7 4-4 0 3 1 0 11 Patrick Richey 5 0-1 0-0 1 1 0 0 0 MIN FGM-A FTM-A OFF REB AST PF PTS Steve Woodberry 16 1-4 4-4 0 4 1 0 6 Mike Maddox 22 3-4 2-2 2 4 1 2 8 Terry Brown 26 5-12 0-0 2 3 1 4 11 David Johanning 3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 Adonis Jordan 34 3-9 8-10 2 6 3 3 14 Alonzo Jamison 28 11-14 3-5 4 9 2 3 26 TOTALS FGM-A FTM-A OFF REB AST PF PTS 32-62 26-33 15 35 12 18 93

MinnesotaJay 8 years, 4 months ago

The impression I had of Arkansas' attitude that year was that they more or less put it in their opponents' faces that they weren't going to just beat you, they were going to embarrass you. Right or wrong, that's the way they came across to me. And, more often than not, that's what they did.

Outscoring them by 24 in the 2nd half kind of gave them a little dose of their own medicine.

Steve Brown 8 years, 4 months ago

Was Mike Anderson, Missouri, a member of that staff.

farnamjayhawk 8 years, 4 months ago

The second half was phenomenal. I remember it being a gorgeous spring day and the thousands that rushed to Jayhawk Blvd. after we won. Every once in a while I will pull out the pictures my roomate and I took during the after game party......Man that was AWESOME!!!

40 minutes of Hell turned into one crazy night of partying


Justin LoBurgio 8 years, 4 months ago

Personal memories of this game....although nobody may care.

This game holds special meaning in my heart. Two months before this game we learned my grandfather had cancer. During this game, my mother and I were driving from Denver to Lawrence to visit my grandparents. This was the first chance we had to see him since the diagnosis and the beginning of aggressive chemo. I will never forget listening to Bob and Max broadcast the game. We arrived in Lawrence at halftime and we were dejected because of my grandfather's weakened condition and the score of the game.

My grandfather's undying faith in the 'Hawks dictated that we watched the second half and not give up on the team. The comeback was amazing as was my grandfather's energy to load us all in his car and take a ride around campus to celebrate the win with the rest of Jayhawk Nation.

My grandfather was too tired to attend the welcome home party at Allen that night....what a party.

My grandfather passed from the cancer in August 1992.

Wish he could have seen another KU championship, me walking down the hill and his great granddaughter.

Alas, this game has great memories for me.

Thanks for this series of stories LJW.

Bruce Brock 8 years, 4 months ago

Hey Hail, good story. Kansas basketball isn't a game, it's a passion. Sometimes I wonder if feeling passionate about a bunch of college kids bouncing an orange ball around isn't a bit shallow, yet the fact remains that untold thousands of people of all ages around the world care a great deal for the Jayhawks. Somehow or another, misguided millions actually care for all those other, lesser teams almost as much.

I wouldn't be surprised if physiologists some day will be able to measure exactly how such passion is good for us as individuals, as well as members of a community. Rooting for your team has got to be good for you, right down to the cellular level. I can't help but wonder if the game of March 23, '91, didn't help your grandfather physically, but I believe that it must have. It clearly helped him emotionally and gave him something joyous to share with his family.

Root for the Jayhawks, and live a better life.

KANSTUCKY 8 years, 4 months ago

My old classmate David Johanning knocked Oliver Miller on his big "A" in that game. Wichita Woodberry was always clutch off the bench. My cousin Mike had a solid 22 minutes. That was a fun tourney run. Thanks for the stat line KUShaw.

KANSTUCKY 8 years, 4 months ago

Isn't Patrick Ritchie still on the team? Man, that guy was there forever.

Al Martin 8 years, 4 months ago

Arkansas' defense really messed with us the first half. But on the first possession of the second half, we ran a backdoor cut for a layup, and I said to my wife, "We're going to win this game."

From that one play, you could tell that we were going to turn that overagressive, overplaying defense on its ear. The rest of the game was an offensive clinic.

I love coach Self, and honestly think we're better off with him than if Roy had stayed (we actually play defense now!), but boy oh boy, there were times when Roy's offense was a thing of beauty to watch.

Studogg 8 years, 4 months ago

I love reading these articles. The tournament that year is about the earliest I can remember following KU games. I was nine years old. I remember crying when we lost to Duke in the title game. From that day forward, obsessing over the Crimson and Blue became, and still is, one of my favorite pastimes!

hawk316 8 years, 4 months ago

I really enjoyed watching both Alonzo and Richard Scott on this team. If Scott had been a bit taller, he would have probably had a nice pro career.

Steve Gantz 8 years, 4 months ago

Anyone remember Oliver Miller falling and acting hurt and just laying on the court? He wasn't hurt, he was tired and dejected so he decided to take a nap on the court, delayed the game like 5 minutes. That's what happens to teams that play like that with a chip on their shoulder. Once the chip gets knocked off, their attitude goes and they act like babies.
The previous blowout of Indiana also was a great memory. Just a flawless, seemingly effortless victory against a very good well coached team.

Michael Leiker 8 years, 4 months ago

Is that a post-mullet Mark Randall...shame he ever got rid of the curls in the back.

100 8 years, 4 months ago


That is one of the most inspirational stories I've ever read.

Thanks a bunch for sharing!

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

tund 8 years, 4 months ago

This game also has special meaning to me. After we beat Indiana on Thursday night, a friend called me about going to the Arkansas game. I told him he was crazy; we were both seniors and TA's with classes to teach on Friday morning and review session to give on Sunday evening. Anyway, we checked the map and ticket availability and rounded up a couple more friends and decided to go for it. Two cars of four took off for the 18hr drive Friday afternoon from Lawrence.

Drove through the night and made it to the team hotel around noon on Saturday. We didn't have tickets yet, but the other carload purchased before leaving. We weren't at the hotel more than 30 minutes before an alum approached us with 4 tickets. We were the hit of the hotel after driving in from Lawrence. Both Chancellor Budig and AD Frederich came over to talk to us before the pre-game pep rally.

Go to the game...our seats were in Roy's block about midway up lower level, center court. Roy's in-laws were sitting right in front of us (talked to them too). Our other group.,....back row, upper deck!

Great game! Definitely remember Miller laying down on the court in the second half. That half has be on the greatest 20 minutes played in KU history.

We drive back after the game and make to friend's house in Lee's Summit in time to watch half of the game on tape before going back to Lawrence for the review session.

Next week, NONE of us got selected for Final Four seats in the student ticket lottery. Friend goes right up to AD Frederich's office to see what he could do. He says "you're the guys from last weekend. Don't worry about it". He gave us four free tickets to Final Four in Indy.

Oh, the memories....

kugrad93 8 years, 4 months ago

That was a great win, but I don't understand how they picked these games. KU has been playing basketball for more than 100 years, and all five of the games picked so far have happened under either Roy or Self. Surely the '88 title game has to be in the top 5. What about all the Final Four teams before that?

100 8 years, 4 months ago

1923 final game against Missouri has to be #1 if we're really talking about historic amazing, gutty performances that yield huge things (an undefeated season & later a place on the map, "back to back", even if others laugh, we were the best in the nation 2 years straight & there was no NCAA or even NIT to prove it).

It was essentially a BCS football voting system, and we were the first to repeat, although we didn't find out until 17 years later!

These teams, led by Paul Endacott really caught the nation's attention on the radio -- little John Wooden was quoted as remembering hear Phog's teams on the radio led by Endacott.

In my book, as great as these other recent games were, without that dramatic 1923 game to end the season against Mizzou, with Endacott forcing jump ball after jump ball, bloodying himself on the court to preserve the victory, KU basketball could have never climbed to where it is today.

Plus it was, pure & simple, the best KU game everwith Phog Allen coaching and Dr. Naismith keeping stats and cheering like a little kid throughout the game! (he absolutely despised Missouri).

Best KU game ever. Even though we won't see it listed, to the true fans of KU hoops, this is no contest:

1: KU vs MU, 1923

Marcia Parsons 8 years, 4 months ago

KUgrad93: This is only game 6 counting down to 1. There's still room for the '88 championship game and four others.

Hank Cross 8 years, 4 months ago

A great game in the middle of a great run: Indiana - Arkansas - UNC. The next week's SI cover was titled "Can Kansas?" It's too bad the lasting memory for most people of KU in the Tourney that year was that alley-oop dunk by Duke's Hill in the championship. Even though UNLV was undefeated, I thought at the time that we might've been able to beat them playing the same game Duke used to win in Nat'l Semi. I also remember thinking at the time that Roy would win multiple championships at KU. In many ways, this run was the highlight of his career at KU.

As far as the series goes, is one of the criteria that KU won the game? If it isn't, from a pure basketball standpoint the triple OT loss to UNC in the Nat'l Championship is No. 2 at the least.

bradh 8 years, 4 months ago

I enjoy these historical articles, they bring back so many memories. I've always thought the 50 point beating of UK was our best game, haven't caught all the articles, so I don't know if it's already been included or not.

Armen Kurdian 8 years, 4 months ago

I remember watching this game in my scholarship hall (Battenfeld, if any aardvarks are out there). I remember taking a picture as someone nailed a three and got some fantastic expressions of the guys cheering at the TV. Wescoe Beach was pandemonium.

hawk_of_ages 8 years, 4 months ago

I don't know if it was one of the 6 greatest games in KU history, but it's definitely in my personal Top 5. 20 minutes of Hell, 20 minutes of Heck!

In addition to 'Zo, I'll always remember the great plays by Randall, Adonis and Woodberry down the stretch in this one, too.

Beak 8 years, 4 months ago

We should def bring back the '91 font, if not the entire uniform.

Sparko 8 years, 4 months ago

I was in DESERT STORM during this one; we had flown to Kuwait City on a C-130 to bring aid to orphans that day, believe it or not. The Iraqis had slaughtered zoo animals and taken everything not nailed down.

I heard a few updates when we landed; I truly believed that KU was in striking distance but Kansas fans from the Owens era also remember some humbling losses to the Hogs. This time, there was an answer--faster offensive sets and secondary breaks. It was a great moment in basketball history; that full-court pressure hasn't been the same since. Sadly, this was more a Sports Center memory; though I did get to watch the next two; very late and very early as I remember it.

Lance Hobson 8 years, 4 months ago

At halftime I was thinking "Well, it's been a good run." But Terry Brown hit a three right off the bat in the second half and it just started looking better right away. By the end Jamison and Richard Scott were getting every single rebound and Oliver Miller looked so tired and out of shape. Woodberry got a big steal at the end and it became clear that we were rolling. The party was truly the best KU has ever had, Wescoe was insane.

Hail, great story. I'm just sorry your grandfather had to see that choke job of '92 against UTEP.

Benjamin Clay Jones 8 years, 4 months ago

What I remember is, at the end of the first half thinking, "There's no way we can hang with these guys from Arkansas. They're just so much better than us. They're beating us six ways to Sunday."

And then--it was like when Popeye is getting thrashed by Brutus or Bluto or whatever his name is and then in the midst of the thrashing guzzles down a can of spinach. Suddenly, he's spinning Bluto around on his little finger and kicking the tar out of him! Well, that was how it was in the second half. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Scott Smetana 8 years, 4 months ago

Jhawk252 says,

"Rooting for your team has got to be good for you, right down to the cellular level."

That's awesome.

I would probably be getting younger on the cellular level rooting this year if it wasn't for the beer negating the effects.

SLJC 8 years, 4 months ago

This game caused me my only ever chase of being totally star-stuck and practically speechless. I remember thinking that the second half of this game was probably the greatest I had seen to that point in my 20+ years of following KU. I was sooo geeked out by our comeback - especially because I DID NOT like Arkansas at the time.

Anyway, the next morning at around 6 or maybe 6:30 I had to be in down town Lawrence. I had parked and was walking down the sidewalk on 9th Street. As I rounded the corner at Mass, who is standing right there but Alonzo Jamison.

Since this was about the very last person on earth I expected to see right then and there, my brain couldn't immediately come to grips with it. He was just standing right in front of me. Finally, I got up the nerve to walk up and ask what in the h*ll he was doing in downtown Lawrence at that time of day. Zo said that he was so amped up that he could not go to sleep and he'd been just walking around Lawrence ever since the team got back into town.

I tried to tell him how he had played one of the great games I'd ever seen a Jayhawk play and blah, blah, blah, but I somehow morphed into a 12 year old school girl and got too excited to make any sense. In retrospect, it was pretty funny.

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