Mario and the miracle!

Big 3 forces OT, lifts Kansas

Kansas University's Mario Chalmers (15) leads the celebration as time runs out on the Jayhawks' 75-68 overtime victory over Memphis. Chalmers hit a three-pointer to tie it with 2.1 seconds left in regulation, and the Jayhawks went on to win their first national title in 20 years.

Kansas University's Mario Chalmers (15) leads the celebration as time runs out on the Jayhawks' 75-68 overtime victory over Memphis. Chalmers hit a three-pointer to tie it with 2.1 seconds left in regulation, and the Jayhawks went on to win their first national title in 20 years.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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2008 NCAA Tournament

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Full video coverage of the Kansas Jayhawks in the 2008 NCAA Tournament

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6News Championship Celebration

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Coverage of the festivities after the Jayhawks became the NCAA National Champions.

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2008 NCAA Tournament

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NCAA Championship Game

— Mario Chalmers raced to his mother, Almarie, and hugged her tightly on the Alamodome court, streamers falling from the rafters after Kansas University's one-for-the-ages 75-68 national championship victory over Memphis on Monday night.

"He said, 'We did it. We did it. We did it,''' Almarie Chalmers beamed with pride. "My son : his heart, his guts. It's unbelievable."

Chalmers, KU's junior guard from Anchorage, Alaska, with ice in his veins, calmly drilled a deep three with two seconds remaining.

The shot completed KU's improbable comeback from a nine-point deficit (in the final 2:12) and forced overtime.

"Mario saved us like he always does. He hit the biggest three of his life when we needed it the most. That's why we call him Mr. Clutch," KU's Brandon Rush said.

The three completely energized the Jayhawks and deflated the Tigers.

KU opened the overtime with baskets by Rush, Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson and grabbed a six-point lead halfway through the five-minute session.

Memphis did cut the gap to three (71-68 at :51), but Final Four MVP Chalmers hit a pair of free throws at :45 and Sherron Collins two more at :18.2 to complete the scoring, setting off a wild celebration following KU's third official national title in history and first since 1988.

The victory would have been impossible without Chalmers' shot heard round the world.

"I had an open look. I had a person in my face. It was just a lucky shot," Chalmers said.

Pressed further, he admitted there might have been a wee bit of skill involved.

"I thought it was going in when it left my hands. It felt pretty good when I released it. I'll let everybody else talk about history. I just think it was a big shot," Chalmers said.

KU coach Bill Self realizes the shot will be replayed over and over in what will go down as one of the great games in NCAA championship history.

"It will probably be the biggest shot ever made in Kansas history," Self said. "You know when 'Danny and the Miracles' won it in '88, they were up four late or whatever (against Oklahoma). So I don't think it had a play like that (in closing moments).

"I don't know about the '52 championship team. It's remarkable he shows that much poise when the pressure is on," Self added.

The entire KU team showed a lot of poise in erasing the nine-point deficit in the final 2:12. The Jayhawks were still standing after a Derrick Rose-led 16-4 run turned a 47-44 deficit (at 9:21) into a 60-51 Tiger lead.

Rose had 10 points in the run, including a deep bank shot just in front of the three-point line with no time left on the shot clock.

"Coach told us to calm down, try to attack them on offense and put them on the line," said Arthur, who was sensational with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Coach said something else, too.

"He said, 'Believe, believe,''' Chalmers said. "We never gave up. We believed."

KU also received some help from Memphis, which finished with a 38-2 record compared to national champ KU's 37-3 mark.

A Collins steal and ensuing three, that followed an Arthur bucket, cut Memphis' nine-point lead to 60-56 at 1:45.

"Sherron's steal and three were two of the biggest plays of the game. We were right in it," Self said.

Chris Douglas-Roberts (game-high 22 points, four more than Rose and Chalmers) made two free throws at 1:29, points that were answered by Chalmers, who made two free throws at 1:23.

Douglas-Roberts then bricked the front end of a one-and-one at 1:39, followed by an Arthur hoop, cutting the gap to 62-60 at 1:00.

Douglas-Roberts missed two free throws at :16.8, while Rose made just one of two at :15, meaning Memphis led just, 63-60, with 10 full seconds to play.

It gave KU a mathematical chance to tie, and Chalmers didn't disappoint.

"I didn't expect them to foul (before he shot)," Chalmers said of Memphis' strategy. "I expected them to guard and try to stop me from hitting the three."

Memphis coach John Calipari had hoped for a foul before the trey.

"We're gonna foul with 10 seconds to go, and they run away from us. The kid makes a shot over our arm. And that's why we lose," Calipari said.

"Ten seconds to go, we're thinking we're national champs, and then a kid makes a shot, and all of a sudden we're not."

After KU won, boy did the Jayhawks celebrate.

Arthur and Jackson hugged at center court as tears streamed down both of their faces. The players after the trophy presentation stood on a podium and watched CBS' "One Shining Moment" together on the big screen.

Even ex-Jayhawk Julian Wright, who left KU last year after his sophomore season for the NBA, joined in the fun on the podium.

"I don't know if it was a miracle, but I guess it was pretty miraculous," KU senior Russell Robinson said of the victory. "I'm going to enjoy watching it on TV over and over. I guess that is an instant classic.

"I'd say we won because we never gave up. You know : all you can do is believe. That's what we did. We believed."

KU made a believer out of Memphis, too.

"The way Kansas fought to take that game, they deserve to be national champs," Calipari said.