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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Keegan

Take-away: Jayhawks didn’t quit

Kansas players Jeff Withey, front, Travis Releford and Conner Teahan leave the court as the Kentucky players celebrate their 67-59 national championship win on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans.

Kansas players Jeff Withey, front, Travis Releford and Conner Teahan leave the court as the Kentucky players celebrate their 67-59 national championship win on Monday, April 2, 2012 in New Orleans.

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Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor post-game interviews

Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor talk about KU's loss to Kentucky and the KU team they love.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Kentucky coach John Calipari and players

Kentucky coach John Calipari and players Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and Darius Miller talk to reporters following the Wildcats' 67-59 victory over Kansas on April 2, 2012, in the national championship game in New Orleans.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson

Kansas coach Bill Self, guard Tyshawn Taylor and forward Thomas Robinson talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 67-59 loss to Kentucky on April 2, 2012, in the national championship game in New Orleans.

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KU vs. Kentucky

Box score

— The take-away from the 2011-2012 Kansas University basketball team is not that the bench scored three points in the Final Four, none in the national-title game. It’s not that no player made as many shots as he missed in Monday night’s 67-59 loss to Kentucky in the Superdome.

It’s not that Kansas did a poor job of getting back in transition early in the game and Kentucky cashed in.

When all that is forgotten, the memory that will endure has so little to do with basketball and so much to do with team bonding, relentless effort, embracing adversity as a challenge to be confronted, never making an excuse.

The take-away from this endearing basketball team is that it had not an ounce of quit in it. Not an ounce.

The best team in college basketball, one that looked and played more like an NBA roster than a bunch of freshmen and sophomores, won the national title. The runner-up won a lot of hearts.

“From start to finish, there’s been no team I’ve ever been around that improved this much,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “There has been no team I’ve been around compete this hard. There’s been no team I’ve been around that was able to take whatever situation dealt them and respond to it favorably, and there’s been no team I’ve been around that represented our university or themselves or their families any better than this one has.”

Self meant every word of it. He didn’t say that to make the red-eyed players sitting next to him, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, feel better about not being able to win it after slashing Kentucky’s lead from 15 points to five in a span of 3:14 that made it Kentucky 62, Kansas 57, when Robinson hit a pair of free throws.

It never grew closer, but visions of KU’s comeback from 19 down in the second half to defeat Missouri in overtime fought for space in so many brains with the NCAA Tournament comebacks from double-digit deficits against Purdue and Ohio State.

Kansas staged all those comebacks by defending the goal with such grit and passion. The Jayhawks executed their coach’s mantra of “no easy baskets” so well that they rode it to an eighth consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship with a 16-2 record.

They did it all without a McDonald’s All-American on the roster, with one returning starter, Taylor, the same player who was the team’s only guy who scored a point in last season’s Elite Eight loss to Virginia Commonwealth.

Kansas defended so well that national player of the year and Final Four outstanding player Anthony Davis didn’t score his first field goal until 5:12 remained. He did everything else, though.

Davis made just one of 10 field goals but deserved every honor he received because of how he influenced every other aspect of a game in which he totaled six points, 16 rebounds, five assists, six blocked shots and three steals.

Kentucky’s long-armed, tall athletes ran the floor so swiftly, moved with such agility, jumped so quickly, had such a nice feel for the game. They blocked 11 shots and made Kansas hurry their shots all night because that’s what happens when multiple guys seemingly out of range, get into range so quickly to swat shots.

No wonder the Wildcats (38-2) demoralized so many teams on their path to a national title. But Kansas had a confident bunch of basketball players who never let anyone do that to them, as proven by the late comeback Monday night.

“The fight never stops with us guys, man,” Taylor said. “From Thomas to Kevin (Young) coming off the bench. We just were fighting the whole game.”

As usual, Self summarized the night from his team’s perspective better than anyone.

“We came up short,” he said. “But you know, I don’t think we lost. I think they just beat us. I’m real proud of our team.”

The day before the title game, Self had no illusions about what a talented team his guys were about to face. That’s why everything he said was aimed at pumping up his players’ confidence.

Afterward, he threw credit the way of John Calipari, the coach he defeated with a late comeback in the 2008 title game.

“They’ve done a fabulous job coaching their team,” Self said. “They share. They like each other, the appearance is. And they certainly defend. They’re playing with pros. That didn’t hurt either.”

Comments

SaltLakeHawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Conner, Jordan, TT, T-Rob, Thank you for an amazing season to cap off your amazing careers. You will be missed dearly.

TT and T-Rob, You now ascend to the status of "legend". You've earned your rightful place in the history books, alongside all the other true legends of Kansas basketball.

But this was somebody else's final game as a Jayhawk. Someone whom, almost impossibly, I'm even more sad to see go.

Danny Manning.

Danny, You've contributed so much to KU, perhaps more than any other single Jayhawk. You gave us a championship in '88. And then you gave us 9 additional years of pure dominance from Kansas big-men.

Wayne Simien Darnell Jackson Sasha Kaun Julian Wright Darrell Arthur Cole Aldrich Marcus Morris Markieff Morris Jeff Whithey Thomas Robinson

You maximized the potential of all these boys, and you turned them into men. Through their dominant play, you continued playing for Kansas well after you graduated. Thank you for quiet leadership. You were one of the most dominant players THE most dominant big-man coach in the history of the game. Nobody spoke softer and carried a bigger stick than you. You're legend will live on in Lawrence for eternity.

Thank you, Danny. Jayhawk nation is forever in-debted to you.

FLJHK 8 years, 3 months ago

+1. Nice. Danny Manning is forever a Jayhawk legend.

Bob Forer 8 years, 3 months ago

I hope the tears were because this wonderful and amazing team played their last game together and not because they lost a basketball game. The guys are all absolute and complete winners. Have never been prouder of a team. An enjoyable, prosperous and successful long adult life awaits each player. Rejoice and smile for the pleasure you gave us and many great things you all will accomplish in the years ahead.

Curtis Stutz 8 years, 3 months ago

Great comments guys. Danny Manning will be missed, all the players leaving will be missed, but I'm not sad to see any of them going. We've got staff members taking over head coaching jobs they have to be so enthusiastic about, we've got players moving on into the next phase of life. I'm happy for all of them for their immense success at KU, and I'm certain they all have many more successes to accomplish in their futures. Thanks for all you've given, I hope you've received just as much from the University of Kansas and all of its representatives. Rock Chalk

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 8 years, 3 months ago

My take away: its not impossible to win a championship without a team full if McDonald's All-Americans or future lottery picks, but it sure doesn't hurt.

This team was amazing to watch this year! They far exceeded my expectations. Amazing coaching and amazing hearts on this team.

Let's enjoy the successful season for a few days and then get out and start recruiting next season's stars!

Joe Joseph 8 years, 3 months ago

Kansas may not have had a McDonald's All-American, but it's not like it was without talent. All of KU's starting five were top-100 recruits and I believe Robinson, Withey, and Johnson were top 30-40. Let's give these guys some credit; they aren't a bunch of scrubs.

Helluva season. Never have I been less disappointed after a tournament loss.

justinryman 8 years, 3 months ago

THis years team highlight video should have a clip from the Jimmy Valvano speech in 1993 at the ESPY's.

"Don't give up. . .Don't ever giver up."

97jhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

I'll take Five Guys over MickyD's any day! In particular, our Five Guys!

Thanks for an unbelievable season! It was such a fun ride!

RCJ4L!!!!

nuleafjhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

Lol - nice play 97jhawk - I much prefer Five Guys too! Now I'm hungry.

Yogi 8 years, 3 months ago

Coach Self was absolutely correct in his assessment of the game. We didn't lose it. They won it. Every one of those players is a hero and a winner. They went down, but they went down fighting, like the champions they are. Those leaving will now take their places with Danny, Mario, Paul, and the rest of the Jayhawk legends who have made us so proud. They are all great young men and have represented Jayhawk Nation well. Our coach has no equal, in my opinion, and he will soon have the returning Hawks and the new recruits carrying on their winning tradition. Congratulations on a fantastic season. We couldn"t be prouder of you. ROCK CHALK!

HawkKlaw 8 years, 3 months ago

“We came up short,” he said. “But you know, I don’t think we lost. I think they just beat us. I’m real proud of our team.”

Love Coach Self! I can't wait for more great seasons with the best coach in college basketball.

Sally Presson 8 years, 3 months ago

SaltLakeHawk said it all!!! this team is absolutely outstanding and no, they never gave up. I'm so proud of you guys, and coaches. Danny, I wish you the very best, we're going to miss the heck out of you, but thanks for all you brought to our teams. Tulsa is mighty lucky to get you. To the seniors & TRob, thanks for a great year, our chest is all puffed up with pride, how you led the team to the championship game and never gave up. We all cried after the game, not because of the loss, but because you guys gave us your all and it's the last game. You will do so good with you future endeavors, because of your strong character and the fact you have such strong disipline and drive.

bbeckum 8 years, 3 months ago

Agree with stupidmichael above. I know the players are hurting, but they gave me so much joy this season, that all I feel is happiness. Happiness at getting to see those guys mature and develop and learn to play with such fierce pride. Thanks to all involved with the program for a wild ride. Only one team in the nation had a better season than KU and that was UK, who was the best team in college basketball this season. And it took the best to beat us. That's something to take pride in too. Rock Chalk

Hank Cross 8 years, 3 months ago

This team deserves all the credit in the world. I know most of us fans resigned to losing before the final buzzer. They never did.

David Robinett 8 years, 3 months ago

Did Withey get the record for blocks in the tourney?

He only needed two to tie, and I'm sure he got that many.

He was like 6 ahead of Davis -- question is, did Davis get enough to pass Jeff in this game?

akl6593 8 years, 3 months ago

Yes he did...I think he had 4 total in 'ship game.

Lance Hobson 8 years, 3 months ago

We were close. Releford almost had a steal that would have cut it to three. I'm glad the team fought back and put some fear into UK. It was an admirable effort from a great team, one of my all-time favorites. Rock Chalk!

Andy Godwin 8 years, 3 months ago

As with nearly every big game this year (except one game by Young and one by Teahan), the bench produced nothing offensively (more fouls (5) than points (0) and rebounds (3) combined). Self did a remarkable job managing games this year with a bench that at times was a liability and that was certainly the case last night.

John Strayer 8 years, 3 months ago

Sure seems like Coach Self is going to need to follow up this year with another stellar coaching job. Don't know about Traylor, but surround Withey with a bunch of freshmen bigs plus Young and Wesley...the middle could be our weakness on the offensive end. Will be interesting to see what Self and his staff come up with. He pretty much set the bar very high with this year.

HawkKlaw 8 years, 3 months ago

I think, if Withey stays, we'll have Ellis and Withey starting down low. That will not be a weakness, offensively or defensively. Ellis can score with the best of them, and Withey was the Big 12 Defensive POY. We will be just fine in the post next year (Traylor, Peters, Lucas, Young, and Wesley for reserves...can you say loaded?!).

The guards are the biggest question I have. We will probably see Elijah, BMac and Releford starting at the 1, 2 and 3 spots. But who will be the reserves? We have Naadir as a backup PG plus Adams or White at SG, if one of them ends up coming here. So it appears we may be a tad thin on the guards next year, unless I'm forgetting someone.

Stephen Koontz 8 years, 3 months ago

When everything is counted, this is the best team ever to wear a Jayhawk uniform.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 3 months ago

I certainly disagree with the label of "best team", but this certainly may be many KU fans favorite of all time.

Even without the victory last night this team truly exemplified what it is to be a Jayhawk. They came to KU they paid their dues, sat on the bench, worked hard in practice year after year. Worked hard in the off-season year after year. They listened to their coaches. They trusted each other. They executed, then defended, they rebounded. They never gave up, and they built their own legacy.

But one thing that I really loved about this team this year. There were no off-the-court distractions this season at all. Sure TRob had that issue after last season at The Cave, and BMac had his little run in with the law back in the fall at Abe and Jake's Landing or wherever it was, and we never heard why Tyshawn and Elijah were suspended during the exhibition season, but once it was Basketball Season these guys were focused. There were no attitudes, no fights (TRob lost his cool once or twice and got T'd up, but nothing serious), no egos to speak of. This team definitely represented KU well this year.

Debbie Mangen 8 years, 3 months ago

I want to also give credit to Ms. Hudy. She gets our players in top physical condition and rarely do they get injured. The thought came to me again after watching the KU-UNC game. Once again, Roy had his team headed for the top with a great team, but a couple of injuries hurt him when he needed them to perform. The same thing always seemed to happen when he was at KU. She is a very important part of our success and I thank her for that. Good luck goes out to these fine young men. I hope you all reach your goals.

ancient_hawk 8 years, 3 months ago

This year's Jayhawks team made me think of Bobby Layne.

Layne was a bandy-legged, cigar-chewing, swaggering little Texan who played QB for U Texas and then the Detroit Lions in the 50s (most of his career without a facemask on his helmet) and who Sports Illustrated once called the "toughest QB to ever play football".

It was said of Layne that he never lost a game, although the clock ran out on him a couple of times. That's how I feel about these kids.

marvinhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

for some reason after this loss, I am looking forward to what lays ahead for the team the next couple of years.

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