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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Comeback kids: A look at the top rallies in the Bill Self era

Scenes from some of the top comebacks in the Bill Self era at KU, counter-clockwise from top left: against Kevin Durant and Texas on March 11 (top) and March 3 (when Durant was hurt, below), 2007; versus Georgia Tech on Jan. 1, 2005; an upset ISU fan confronts Self on Feb. 25 of this year, and Ben McLemore (23) banks the tying three on Jan. 9, also against ISU; Thomas Robinson salutes after storming back against Ohio State on March 31, 2012; getting physical against Denis Clemente (21) and K-State on Feb. 14, 2009; Travis Releford lets out a roar against North Carolina on March 24, 2013; Tyshawn Taylor takes flight after a rally past Purdue on March 18, 2012; Mario Chalmers knocked to the deck by Southern Illinois on March 22, 2007; and a whole-team celebration after roaring past Oklahoma on Feb. 4, 2006. At the center are the consensus top comebacks in the Self era: the Mario Chalmers-led rally past Memphis in 2008, left, and Thomas Robinson-keyed comeback over Missouri in 2012.

Scenes from some of the top comebacks in the Bill Self era at KU, counter-clockwise from top left: against Kevin Durant and Texas on March 11 (top) and March 3 (when Durant was hurt, below), 2007; versus Georgia Tech on Jan. 1, 2005; an upset ISU fan confronts Self on Feb. 25 of this year, and Ben McLemore (23) banks the tying three on Jan. 9, also against ISU; Thomas Robinson salutes after storming back against Ohio State on March 31, 2012; getting physical against Denis Clemente (21) and K-State on Feb. 14, 2009; Travis Releford lets out a roar against North Carolina on March 24, 2013; Tyshawn Taylor takes flight after a rally past Purdue on March 18, 2012; Mario Chalmers knocked to the deck by Southern Illinois on March 22, 2007; and a whole-team celebration after roaring past Oklahoma on Feb. 4, 2006. At the center are the consensus top comebacks in the Self era: the Mario Chalmers-led rally past Memphis in 2008, left, and Thomas Robinson-keyed comeback over Missouri in 2012.

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Scenes from some of the top comebacks in the Bill Self era at KU, counter-clockwise from top left: against Kevin Durant and Texas on March 11 (top) and March 3 (when Durant was hurt, below), 2007; versus Georgia Tech on Jan. 1, 2005; an upset ISU fan confronts Self on Feb. 25 of this year, and Ben McLemore (23) banks the tying three on Jan. 9, also against ISU; Thomas Robinson salutes after storming back against Ohio State on March 31, 2012; getting physical against Denis Clemente (21) and K-State on Feb. 14, 2009; Travis Releford lets out a roar against North Carolina on March 24, 2013; Tyshawn Taylor takes flight after a rally past Purdue on March 18, 2012; Mario Chalmers knocked to the deck by Southern Illinois on March 22, 2007; and a whole-team celebration after roaring past Oklahoma on Feb. 4, 2006. At the center are the consensus top comebacks in the Self era: the Mario Chalmers-led rally past Memphis in 2008, left, and Thomas Robinson-keyed comeback over Missouri in 2012.

For the first time all summer, the four Journal-World sports writers formulating the lists for our annual summer series were able to come to a consensus in a category.

In Part 9 of our 10-part series that has looked back on the best players and most memorable moments of Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self’s first 10 years in town, we’ll tackle the games that most likely sent the blood pressure of all of those reading this to new heights — comebacks.

Because each of us would have plastered KU’s come-from-behind, overtime victory against Memphis in the 2008 national title game and the surge back from a 19-point deficit against Missouri in Allen Fieldhouse in 2012 at the top of our lists, we elected to make those ineligible for inclusion on our lists.

So, essentially, what you’re getting this week is a Top 7, because we all agreed that there was no way to leave those two off of the top. Those games are as big in Kansas basketball lore as nearly any, and by now you all know about Mario Chalmers’ miracle shot to send it to overtime in the title game and Thomas Robinson’s big-time block in the final seconds against Mizzou to send that one to OT, where the Jayhawks won what may go down as the final game ever played between the two Border War rivals.

So instead of rehashing those games, which include memorable moments that many of you know inside and out, we decided to challenge ourselves and give you five more apiece. There are some repeats, but the lists include a few games that probably would not have made it if we had all included Memphis and Mizzou.

Here’s a look:

Gary Bedore

1. KU 88, Texas 84, OT, March 11, 2007, Oklahoma City: How can I not go with the greatest comeback in school history (22 points) as No. 1? The amazing Kevin Durant scored 37 points but did not score a point in overtime. KU actually trailed at one point, 32-10, but managed to win thanks to 20 points from Sherron Collins and 19 from Brandon Rush and Julian Wright.

2. KU 90, Texas 86, March 3, 2007: Kevin Durant scored 25 points in the first half, but was injured the second half as the Jayhawks erased a 16-point deficit to win in Allen Fieldhouse. Julian Wright had 17 points and 13 rebounds in that game, which gave KU a league title.

3. KU 70, Georgia Tech 68, Jan. 1, 2005: Aaron Miles had 14 points, eight assists and five rebounds in a game KU trailed by as many as 16 points. Keith Langford’s shot in the lane with three ticks left in OT was the winner.

4. KU 97, Iowa State 89, OT, Jan. 9, 2013: Ben McLemore’s bank shot from three with a second left in regulation erased a three-point deficit and forced overtime. McLemore had 33 points in a game that the Jayhawks seemed destined to lose. KU had trailed by six with four minutes remaining.

5. KU 108, ISU 96, OT, Feb. 25, 2013: Iowa State led by five points with :44 to play, but Elijah Johnson wouldn’t let the Jayhawks lose. He had 39 points — yes, 39 points — as KU stormed to the win.

Tom Keegan

1. KU 108, Iowa State 96, OT, Feb. 25, 2013: Elijah Johnson had the night of a lifetime, scoring 39 points, 30 after halftime. He scored 25 of KU’s last 36 points, enabling KU to storm back from a seven-point deficit with 5:17 left in regulation. From relentless drives to the rim to tightly guarded three-pointers, Johnson made everything he put up. Afterward, Iowa State booster Melvin Weatherwax charged toward KU coach Bill Self and made derogatory remarks about Self’s players.

2. KU 88, Texas 84, OT, March 11, 2007: Mario Chalmers hit a three-pointer in the final seconds to send the game into overtime. (Where have I heard that line before?) Kansas won the classic Big 12 tournament title game that had the look of a blowout at the beginning. Texas led 32-10 with 8:10 left in the first half, and nobody from KU quit believing a comeback was on its way.

3. KU 64, Ohio State 62, March 31, 2012: Down 13 points in the first half and nine points at the break, the Jayhawks stormed back to win the national semifinal, triggering a celebration from Bourbon Street in New Orleans to Mass Street in Lawrence.

4. KU 85, Kansas State 74, Feb. 14, 2009: The K-State students, stationed so close to the floor, were at their rambunctious best and so were standout guards Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen. That tandem led the Wildcats to a 16-point lead, one that guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich worked together to eradicate. They combined for 40 points.

5. KU 70, North Carolina 58, March 24, 2013: Down nine points at the half, KU rode Jeff Withey’s emotional halftime to a senior-led domination to start the second half on a 29-8 run. With freshman sensation Ben McLemore unnerved by NCAA Tournament pressure, senior Travis Releford made sure that didn’t end the team’s ride. He totaled 22 points and eight rebounds in what his coach called his best game ever.

Matt Tait

1. KU 63, Purdue 60, March 18, 2012: On a night nothing seemed to be going KU’s way, and everything — especially early — went Purdue’s way, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor helped the Jayhawks find a way to stay within arm’s length all game and then stole a victory down the stretch. I’m sure to this day the Boilermakers still don’t know how they lost. Because of the late tip time and our deadline, I had written 10-12 paragraphs of my story about how Purdue pulled the upset only to find myself using the delete key a few minutes later when Taylor, Elijah Johnson and company turned up the defense in the final minutes to help the Jayhawks advance to the Sweet 16.

2. KU 64, Ohio State 62, March 31, 2012: If this one cracked my favorite games a week ago, it makes sense to see it on my memorable comebacks list, too. Down nine at the break, the Jayhawks outscrapped the Buckeyes by 11 in a rugged second half to advance to their second national title game in five seasons. There were a couple dozen possessions in this one that had a do-or-die feel to them, but none was as big as Travis Releford’s dunk as time expired that cut the OSU lead (which had reached 13 in the first half) to single digits and gave KU some momentum.

3. KU 88, Texas 84, OT, March 11, 2007: Although this went down as the largest comeback in school history (KU was down 22 late in the first half), I’ll always remember it as the day the Jayhawks overcame one of the best college players I’ve ever seen. As was the case every time he faced the Jayhawks during his lone season at Texas, Kevin Durant was lights-out in this one, but the Jayhawks and Mr. Clutch, Mario Chalmers, upped the intensity to force overtime and rode the momentum of getting there to a heck of a Big 12 tournament title-game victory.

4. KU 108, ISU 96, OT, Feb. 25, 2013: It’s hard to say which of the Iowa State comebacks during last year’s regular season was more impressive, but I went with this one because this was the one where the Jayhawks looked the most dead in the water, and the other one — 97-89, also in overtime on Jan. 9, 2013 — was aided by a Ben McLemore banked-in three, which, like it or not, was kind of lucky. There was nothing lucky about KU’s comeback in Ames, though. Instead of dropping their heads and giving in to a talented team that had them on the ropes, the Jayhawks, most notably Elijah Johnson, kept fighting and found a way to get it done.

5. KU 61, Southern Illinois 58, March 22, 2007: This one stood out because of how physical the Salukis played. One round before running out of gas against second-seeded UCLA in the Elite Eight, the top-seeded Jayhawks were pushed to the brink of elimination and beaten up by a squad Self called the “toughest” they had played all year. Self’s crew was up to the challenge, though and managed to overcome a six-point second-half deficit thanks to a strong finish from sophomore Brandon Rush. KU was out-rebounded on the offensive glass 17-6, made just six of 13 free throws down the stretch and could not exhale until a half-court heave to tie it missed the mark.

Jesse Newell

1. KU 88, Texas 84, OT, March 11, 2007: Still stands as the biggest comeback in school history. After falling behind 32-10 with 8:10 left in the first half, the Jayhawks stormed back, with a Mario Chalmers three forcing overtime with 19 seconds left. KU won the Big 12 title game despite 37 points from Texas freshman Kevin Durant.

2. KU 90, Texas 86, March 3, 2007: KU didn’t look like it had a chance early when Durant scored 25 first-half points on 10-for-14 shooting while making all five of his threes. The Jayhawks, who trailed 51-35 late in the first half, used a 24-7 run to take the lead back early in the second half before holding on late. Durant — slowed by a sprained ankle in the second half — finished with 32 points.

3. KU 63, Purdue 60, March 18, 2012: Purdue’s Robbie Hummel lit up KU for 22 first-half points before KU coach Bill Self switched to a rarely used triangle-and-two defense to help spark the second-half rally. KU trailed by as many as 11 in the first half and by nine (45-36) with 14 minutes left before a dramatic finish. The memorable play was an alley-oop with KU down three and a minute left, as Elijah Johnson never hesitated in throwing a tough transition pass to Tyshawn Taylor that the senior slammed home.

4. KU 97, Iowa State 89, OT, Jan. 9, 2013: Ben McLemore’s game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer was so far off that it hit the backboard and fell through, sending the fieldhouse fans into a frenzy and giving the freshman his most memorable moment as a Jayhawk. McLemore’s 33 points were two off the KU freshman record set by Danny Manning in 1985.

5. KU 59, Oklahoma 58, Feb. 4, 2006: Trailing 50-34 with 10:22 left, KU ended the game on a 25-8 run. Chalmers provided the game-winner, hitting a runner in the lane with 19 seconds to go. Oklahoma missed three shots that would have won it, including one from Terrell Everett that was blocked by KU’s Brandon Rush.

Comments

phogphan2000 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I like Tait's top 4, Bedore's #3 and Keegan's #5. That 2nd half against UNC was pretty special after such a rough start to that game. However, since I was at the GTech game with my brother on N.Y.'s day, KU was avenging the Elite Eight loss of the previous season and KU never held the lead until OT in that game, that one will always be epic to me. Plus Langford is one of my all-time favorite Jayhawks.

NCAA tourney comeback wins are definitely tough to beat. Makes me think of all the ones that KU came up short on in both the Self and Williams eras. The Purdue game was that much sweeter because of the near comeback against them in '94 when a different player was on fire from deep, Martin instead of Hummel. I think I'd actually list that Purdue win over the border war finale in my overall list at #2 behind Memphis. Without that win KU exits early from the NCAAs that year and never makes the run to the title game.

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Steve Gantz 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Durant getting hurt in the 2nd half of a game puts a big asterisk on the March 3 game.

I'd already forgot our comeback against UNC in this years game.

The do or die nature of NCAA games should take precedence in a list like this.

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jakejayhawk 8 months, 3 weeks ago

My wife and I were at the ISU game in Ames. Sat first row and by the visitor tunnel. Late in the game I caught Tharpe's eye while he was waiting to get the ball from the ref to inbound. I nodded at him and clapped. He nodded back. I knew those guys were going to give it all they had and there was no fear.

I was standing by coach when the fan came at him. There were other fans cussing Elijah for dunking that last possession. A couple were threatening to beat him up. Our players and the refs were showered by the student section when they ran off the floor. I have to say that security and the Hilton folks were amazing in how they handled everything. A few bad eggs tried to spoil it for everyone. My favorite photo is one I took after the game. Note the Cyclone fan in body paint as he exits in front of the final score!

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KJD 8 months, 3 weeks ago

KU 108, Iowa State 96, OT, Feb. 25, 2013:

Bill Self grabs his 500th win all-time. Pretty sweet game for that particular milestone. When Self gets 600 in a few years down the road we'll get to remember EJ's 39 plus that Iowa State fans are crazed.

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jaybate 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I would like to take a moment and say how grateful I am for the team of pro journos Tom has assembled and kept around long enough to let us get to know them.

I feel I can count on getting to know Coach Self and his staff and a lot of his players; that is a huge plus in this musical chairs world we live in.

But something I doubted I would live to see in the internet age is a "team" of sports writers, each with distinct personalities and complementary styles, each doing it EFD, and each not holding any recognizable grudges with any of the board rats over time for occasional conflicts and user agreement transgressions.

Doff of my cap to Tom and his men.

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jaybate 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I am frankly in awe of the pro journos' abilities to recall this many come from behinds. I know there have been many and that come-from-behinds are something I associate with Coach Self. His KU teams are often down, but they are almost never out. It is one of the things I enjoy so much about his teams. IMHO he asks his teams to do a lot of sandbagging, and not amping them for certain games, and so there are by definition going to be more opportunities for such come backs. But that is all intellectualizing on the fact that Bill's Men don't have much quit in them and I respect them a great deal for that.

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Ralster Jayhawk 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Nice lists and reminiscences! For me, each high-energy game seems to hinge around the emotions and play of 1 or 2 key jayhawks in whatever game: Tyshawn+EJ+TRob's utter display of emotion at the end of the Purdue win is a lifetime memory. The EJ39 game, because it now represents EJ's finest moment as a Hawk. The Texas comebacks were simply legend, and were team wins, which typify that 07/08 team perfectly--able to beat anybody. After TX, no one questioned Mario's cojones on big shots. And thats how his career keeps playing out, in NCAA, and in the NBA.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 8 months, 3 weeks ago

We're a month away from football.

Could we please, for the love of god, start talking about football? It makes us look pathetic when our local sports media is still talking about basketball on July freakin 29th.

It reinforces our rivals' view that the University of Kansas and its fanbase only cares about one sport.

...maybe they're right.

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rtwngr 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I honestly can't believe that the final border war, played in Allen Fieldhouse, did not make the list. Down 19 at one point, the final dagger of defeat was delivered by the Jayhawks. With no rematch in the forseeable future, MU must live with that final defeat indefinitely. How's that taste Tiger fans?

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Bryce Landon 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I remember being in Allen Fieldhouse for the 2006 Kansas-Oklahoma game. We played so poorly the first 32 minutes, and my youngest sister, who was 6 at the time, was so mad at the Jayhawks for playing so poorly that she started cheering for the Sooners! Of course, I remember how loud the Fieldhouse was when the Jayhawks recovered and took the lead and how the Sooners' final three-point attempt airballed at the buzzer. My dad, who normally is quiet and composed, was going nuts that day! That game was much better than the Super Bowl that aired later that night.

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Kevin Huffman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Happiest fooball memories.

No. 1 = Orange Bowl win over Va. Tech.

No. 2 = beating OU at home (even though they (OU) were WAY DOWN at that time) and the goal posts were torn down (don't know if we can even do that any more)....one went in Potter Lake & the ohter made it's way to The Wheel.

No. 3 = might have been a loss, but I think it was the year that Nebraska actually DID win it all w/ Tommie Frazier at QB...?maybe? Either that or they were, AT LEAST in the Nat'l Championship game. I remember June Henley had a HUGE game in that game. I remember him carrying us on what looked like it was going to be a game-tying drive with about 3 mins. left or so......we get the TD....then Mason decides to go for two. Still ok with that, BUT he overthought it and went to a passing play (don't think it was even play-action) and despite the fact we were running it down their throat, subsequently trailed by 1. Frazier got the ball back and the game ended w/ NU able to get a first down and out to about mid-field. So close!!!

No. 4 = one that I didn't actually get to see or hear much of but I remember a recent year when UT was WAY UP THERE in the rankings and MANY people thought we should've pulled the upset in Lawrence. AGAIN, MIGHT have been the year UT went on to win it all w/ Vince Young I want to say.

Seems like you have to relish the "near wins" when it comes to football. Having said that, back when KU WAS actually really good I remember Okla. St. was pretty much a joke back then so there's ALWAYS hope.

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Gregor Southard 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Someone mentioned a football series, so here's a football one. My junior and senior years in high school, the Lutheran youth groups went to Lawrence for a game. The first year, KU beat Washington State, which was ranked #3 at the time, and the next year upset UCLA (their only loss that year, KU's only win). Moral of the story? The AD needs to consider giving Lutherans season tickets!

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KansasComet 8 months, 3 weeks ago

The 2nd ISU game is the greatest comeback to me. A hostile environment, Big Monday, and a team that was shooting lights out from 3. Elijah Johnson refused to let KU lose on this night. His signature game as a Kansas Jayhawk! Incredible performance, I still shake my head in disbelief. That game was over, and he brought us back.

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EdwordL 8 months, 3 weeks ago

So, in effect, with the two greatest comebacks set aside for the purpose of this discussion, we are deciding comebacks #3 through #7.

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Bryce Landon 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Uh, how did the title game against Memphis and the final home game against Mizzoodle not make the cut? O.o

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jakejayhawk 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Nice article LJW staff, and great concept for a series. You have done a great job of creating a forum for all kinds of feedback and debate.

Any chance you can do something in a similar concept for football? It doesn't have to be an exact copy; in fact I believe it should be different. But there are some wonderful, exciting, and heartbreaking moments from our Jayhawk footballers. (Remember 13-10? I was at that debacle. I do have to give the Shockers credit.)

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hawksince51 8 months, 3 weeks ago

While the regular season comebacks were all good, I rate those in the NCAAs higher because of the "lose and go home" element. Therefore, I agree with Tait that the comeback against Purdue in 2012 rates number 1 aka number 3 (I do agree that the win over MU would be no. 2 even though it was regular season.) And it is nice to read about the several comeback wins Self has had in the NCAA tourneys considering some of the frustrating losses he has suffered in that venue.
A fun article to, Thanks.

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Tony Bandle 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Been out of town for two weeks [car broke down in Decator, Alabama on the way home from Florida and had to buy a new one to get home!!].

Did I miss anything?

No word on the McClemore mess?

Are we picked for last in Big Twelve Football...again?

Did Jaybate write a treatise on atmospheric pressure's effect on the knuckleball?

Is Ahperse suffering from the summer blahs?

Is the LJW staff suffering from the summer blahs?

Please, someone, please fill me in on any important developments.

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Bewareofthephog Fifety-Five 8 months, 3 weeks ago

  1. (KU 88 vs Texas 84 2007)- Kansas was down by 22 against Kevin Durant but managed to comeback.

  2. (KU vs GT 2005)- down sixteen and never led until the very end

  3. (KU vs Purdue in 2012 tournament)- Hummel went off for 34 in first half and KU was down by double digits for most of the game.

  4. (KU 108 vs ISU 96 2013)- ISU kept hitting threes and was up by about seven with about a minute to go.

  5. (KU 59 OU 58 2006)- down by 16 late in the second half

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Jonathan Allison 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I had no idea that Mario Chalmers' miracle was defended by Derrick Rose, Michael Dixon, AND Thomas Robinson! That makes it ever more miraculous. (see photo)

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justinryman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I can't claim coming back against any Rick Barnes coached team as great. He ca't coach his way out of a wet paper bag. Just look at the talent he hashad there and underacheived with it. We always make fun of Drew and Baylor for their failures in capatalizing on talent, but Barnes can't coach.

Take out those wins for KU. Barnes probably did more harm than good to his teams when they got those large leads instead of actually coaching them and finishing the game.

But I will take the wins over him any day no matter how they come.

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vd 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Can't wait to see the LJW 10 part series on KU FB.

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John Myers 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't know that it necessarily beats out any on these lists, but last year's game down here in Austin was an amazing rally win for me.

I live in Austin, I hate UT, and watching the crowd go from thinking they were amazing and going to beat KU to watching a bunch of dejected Longhorn fans sulk out of the Erwin Center all depressed because we came back and beat them was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed.

The KU crowd was incredible, too. I would guess nearly 30% of the crowd was Jayhawks, and at one point during our comeback we started up the "Let's go Jayhawks :clap: :clap: :clap clap clap:" chant and the UT fans actually started booing because we were so loud.

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Michael Luby 8 months, 3 weeks ago

No way we don't have at least one this year with how young they will be.

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nuleafjhawk 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I hope we don't have ANY come from behind victories this year.....

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BigTamale 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Keegan... if I recall, ku beat unc 70-58 not 70-48. FYI

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Cmill1221 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Home vs ISU from this year? I don't know if I have that one in my top 5. Still feel the Feb 4th 2006 Oklahoma game is underrated. Talk about rallies, I think KU scored 11 or 13 straight and came back from 16 down in the last 10 minutes. Give that young KU team and comeback a little more love!!!

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ahpersecoachingexperience 8 months, 3 weeks ago

This is not going to go well for me today.

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chezlog 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Uhperse, Read the article both posting. "Because each of us would have plastered KU’s come-from-behind, overtime victory against Memphis in the 2008 national title game and the surge back from a 19-point deficit against Missouri in Allen Fieldhouse in 2012 at the top of our lists, we elected to make those ineligible for inclusion on our lists."

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ljmhawk 8 months, 3 weeks ago

ugh is it a new school year yet???

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ahpersecoachingexperience 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Uh, there's one game where we were down 9 with 2 minutes left in 2008 that we won I would consider a pretty good rally.

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