Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Greatest KU games: No. 5

Kansas forward Darrell Arthur rejects a shot by North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough in the first half of the Jayhawks' Final Four victory over the Tar Heels in April at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas forward Darrell Arthur rejects a shot by North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough in the first half of the Jayhawks' Final Four victory over the Tar Heels in April at the Alamodome in San Antonio.


More coverage

Check out Gary Bedore's original game story and more here

Final Four Postgame Coverage

After KU's Final Four victory, the 6News team was on hand to bring you live updates from the celebrations in downtown Lawrence, analysis of the game, and postgame coverage from San Antonio.

KU Final Four postgame press conference

Check out video and audio from KU's postgame press conference after defeating North Carolina in the Final Four. Also, some scenes from a chaotic downtown Lawrence after the game.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth story in the Journal-World’s series of the top 10 victories in Kansas University hoops history. Introducing No. 5:

Few games in Kansas University basketball history have as many meaningful and memorable storylines as the one that took place on April 5, 2008, between KU and North Carolina.

KU won, 84-66, earning the right to play for the national championship. It was the second game of the first Final Four in NCAA history that featured all four No. 1 seeds. And, of course, emotions boiled because former Kansas coach Roy Williams was leading the Tar Heels against his old school for the first time.

“We knew it was a huge deal to the fans,” said Cole Aldrich, now a junior. “But for us personally, I was recruited by Roy to Carolina, but we didn’t have any of the guys who played under Roy, and we just wanted to play our butts off for the fans.”

No one illustrated that better than Aldrich. Eight points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots. All in 16 minutes. All against national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough. Aldrich averaged just 2.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game as a freshman.

“Coming into the game, I had prepared the same way I had the other 38 games,” he said. “I knew that if I was going to get in, it was going to be the first half because, during the course of the year, that was usually when I got in.”

Aldrich’s impact helped the Jayhawks jump out to a 40-12 lead. That score — 40-12 — is as entrenched in KU hoops lore as any single score in history. As memorable as the 83-79 final against Oklahoma in the 1988 national title game and perhaps moreso than the 75-68 final score of Kansas’ overtime triumph against Memphis two nights after the Carolina victory.

But few images shine through as much as those of Aldrich — along with Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson — actively frustrating the dickens out of Hansbrough.

“We knew it was tough for him to score over length,” Aldrich said. “We knew if we just walled up, we were going to be able to block some shots and, if not block shots, we were going to make it really tough on him. Shady (Arthur) and I were really trying just to frustrate the heck out of him because he was one of the main pulses of their team. And we knew if he was a little frustrated, that some of the other guys on their team might get frustrated.”

Today, so many months and blocks later, Aldrich remembered how he felt the moment KU coach Bill Self turned to him.

“Once Sasha and Darnell got in foul trouble, coach called my name, and I was definitely a little nervous,” he said. “But I was excited. It was cool because it was my first year, my freshman year, and still being really young and not really knowing anything, I just went out there and played my butt off. It was kind of the classic deal where you gotta be ready when your number’s called. And I was ready when my number got called. It just happened to be in the Final Four.”

With so much hype surrounding the game, it was nearly impossible to ignore the Roy Williams connection. But, as Aldrich indicated, it seemed to be a considerably easier task for the Kansas players than Carolina’s.

Former UNC point guard Ty Lawson, now a member of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, supported that notion.

“Coach (Williams) downplayed the whole situation about playing Kansas,” Lawson said. “But I think that he really wanted to win that game, and it was probably a little bit of a distraction because of everything, how he ended things at Kansas and came to Carolina. It wasn’t until after the game that you could tell how emotional he really was about it.”

Despite his team’s loss — in which the Tar Heels cut the KU lead to 54-50 with 11:11 to play — Lawson said he felt privileged to play in such an important game between powerhouse programs.

“It was fun, especially with it coming in the Final Four,” he said. “There was a lot of build-up to the game, especially because of what was at stake. It was a big game. I wish we would’ve played a better game. But Kansas was a good team, and it’s hard to erase a 20-point lead against a team like that. We just didn’t have enough energy after we made our run.”

Aldrich said the Jayhawks were not surprised by either Carolina’s surge or their answer to that run.

“All throughout the Final Four we were pretty much just jailed in our hotel room,” he said. “We’d go to film, we’d eat, go to the gym, hotel room, hang out, and that’s all we did. We really felt like we had something to prove because we were the team that nobody was really giving a chance to win. And we just wanted to show everyone we could play. It was just a fun game to play in.”


fansincewilt 12 years, 6 months ago

I think that game was very emotional for all of us. I remember us missing all of those free throws against Syracuse is 03. When NC came roaring back, I had those same kind of feelings. I'm not quite sure but this game could be my all-time favorite game. I don't know when I've witnessed so much energy in a group of guys. It almost seemed like there were an extra person or two on that floor at the beginning of the game. Jayhawks were everywhere. What a game! It's amazing that they had enough energy to finish that game and then go on to win the national championship. I think I would put this one up with the '88 and the '08 championship games. On that night those guys brought a lot of joy to Jayhawk nation. Those feelings about Roy leaving are now gone. Those guys did it for us on that night. Now, I find myself rooting for NC to do a little better.

Steve Brown 12 years, 6 months ago

Yes, this is one for the ages. The 1st half was special. This trophy came from a UNC first game & this year will be KY. How fitting.

Like '88 final four when the first four games we had somewhat lucky path. The higher seeds were knocked off before we played them, then we arrived in KC to meet Dook in the 1st game. Duke owned the 80's and had beaten us four years prior, Danny's frosh year, in the Dallas Reunion Arena Final Four. The 1st half we jumped out to something like 24-6 this UNC game was reminiscent.

How does UNC 08 game challenge our young players? Just like Cole had to be ready, we have some seldom used players today that when called to go in will have to be ready in Indy or before. Cole is the model for seldom used players, their time will come.

Steve Brown 12 years, 6 months ago

Where can we purchase a DVD/tape of the complete UNC and Memphis games, not the shortened edited CBS version, the complete CBS broadcast as my Tivo lost this one.

DCHawk 12 years, 6 months ago

In terms of this series of greatest KU games, I am not sure that the game against UNC should not be ranked higher. (I agree the 88 title game is bigger) Think about about how much a loss in this game would have changed the program. Self would not have got the title (securing the monkey on his back) and Roy would have best the fams he had betrayed (and probably would have gone on to win a title that year). For the fans (maybe not the players), this has to be one of the top games from an emotional standpoint. In fact, had we lost this game and then lost those players from the team (Rush , Chalmers, Jackson, Kaun, Robinson), there almost surely would have been a hsngover going into the next year, It is not inconceivable that Self's job would have been on the line. I think it was a bigger game than the championship aganst Memphis.

Dyrk Dugan 12 years, 6 months ago

very significant game, because it was Bill Self's coronation as the head coach of Kansas basketball. he was now "worthy" of being the steward going forward.

His first Final Four appearance...and or course, first FF appearance for KU since Roy left...and who do we play? Roy's heels.

The greatest FF ever, in terms of quality teams...all four #1 seeds. and UNC was the #1 top seed...we were the "worst" #1 seed.

UNC was 36-2 heading into that game...and had never lost away from home. and we just destroyed them from the start.

Yes, they game back from 28 down, and had it to four...(don't all good Roy teams comeback?), but then we hammered them the final 10 minutes.

for 25 minutes of the game, the score was 70-28 KU (first 15, last 10). Just stunning.

Brandon Rush had 25 points....probably his best overall game at KU. i had some friends over, and we were just going crazy watching it...just a great feeling, and so proud of Coach Self and the players.

jayhawkinnc 12 years, 6 months ago


i purchased my KU/UNC DVD from some guy that was selling them here on 2 years ago. if i can find his email and or website again, i'll let you know and post it here.

by the way, Duke beat us 2 years prior to when we beat them in '88, not 4 years prior. Danny was a sophomore, not a frosh that year.

jayhawkinnc 12 years, 6 months ago

i live in north carolina and i watched this game at a sports bar here in NC. needless to say, i was the only KU fan in the bar. i had such a good time watching this game....i got a lot of dirty looks...almost got kicked out. lol. the UNC fans were absolutely stunned as to what KU was doing to their team. I was thrilled to have KU up 28 in the first half, but i was not at all "comfortable" with that lead. i knew UNC would make a run, but i didn't anticipate the lead getting down to 4. when it got down to 4 (and nearly down to 2 had Danny Green not had a jumper rim out), i thought i was going to get sick. i didn't want to see Roy's team get the best of us. thankfully, the hawks got out of their little funk in that 2nd half and we pulled it out. one of the happiest days of my life. that, and winning over memphis 2 nights later.

Steve Gantz 12 years, 6 months ago

I remember thinking this will sting worse than Syracuse in 03 if we blow this lead. Teams spend a ton of energy in a comeback, only to fall apart again when they make it close and this game illustrated that perfectly. Lighthawk, I was disappointed when I ordered the DVD from CBS and it had the shortened version of the game.
I'd also like to find a DVD of the 88 final if anyone knows where to get one.

Mike Kendall 12 years, 6 months ago

This was the dream match up that all Jayhawk fans wanted and finally, the Hawks not only beat North Carolina they dominated them. Like someone said earlier, all the stress of Roy Williams leaving KU was lifted off our shoulders after the win. It was a game for the ages. It was an emotional game. Probably the best I have ever felt as a Jayhawk fan. What was great too, Coach Self said in the press conference that the motivation wasn't playing against Coach Williams. The motivation was playing against the overall #1 seed and playing against a great program--CLASSIC!

bradynsdad 12 years, 6 months ago

i still have this game and the national championship game saved on my dvr. it is fun every once in a while to go back and watch them. i had my wisdom teeth pulled the day before this game so even though it hurt like hell i still found myself screaming at both games.

Sally Presson 12 years, 6 months ago

I don't feel one bit sorry for Roy, the best thing that ever happened to KU was Roy leaving and getting Coach Self. I say my "thank you's" everyday for Bill Self. My husband & I went to Lawrence to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the UNC game with our daughter and her friends. It was wonderful, couldn't have been a better place to watch a KU game if you couldn't be at the game. It was filled to capacity with rocking KU fans. I'll never forget it!!!

siamsam 12 years, 6 months ago

And who can forget the infamous comment by Billy Packer at 38-12 midway through the 1st half: "This game is over". Was anyone else saying "no he didn't just say that!" He almost jinxed us. Thankfully he was right, but he might have been alluding more to his own broadcasting career.

rockchalk_dpu 12 years, 6 months ago

To this day, I have only seen the couple minutes of this game because I was at a sorority formal, and couldn't leave my date. I only saw the minutes in which UNC cut the lead to four, and I realized was probably the jinx, so I left the bar and went back to her to dance more. All I had to go off of were texts messages and phone calls from my friends at the end, so if there is some place you can find the whole game, I'd really appreciate it.

Chris Corley 12 years, 6 months ago

It was amazing to see what happened to UNC when they had to play away from their home state for the first time in that tournament. Wasn't it?

Mike Kendall 12 years, 6 months ago

10point8--- So, true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PittsburghJayhawk 12 years, 6 months ago

I bought the DVDs of the 2008 and 1988 Championship games from in May of 08, but I don't see them on there anymore. Check and They seem to have a pretty good selection. Not sure if the games are shortened or not. It's been a while since I watched my 1988 DVD so I can't remember if that's an edited game, but it includes the Duke game and the running time is only 84 minutes so it probably is.

12 years, 6 months ago

rockchalk_dpu ~

I have yet to hear of a place selling the complete version of this game on DVD or otherwise.

BTW, I was wondering at the time during the game who or what was jinxing us. Now I know! For rectifying that situation, you sir are a humanitarian :^)

Brad Farha 12 years, 6 months ago

Try this link to purchase the KU-UNC '08 Final Four game. I have not purchased it myself, so I can't vouch for it, but it seems like it's a full broadcast.

BCRavenJHawkfan 12 years, 6 months ago

siamsam: I too will most remember Billy fudgePacker declaring the game over. The biggest reason it came as such a shock was because of his long running lack of true respect of Kansas. Some will remember he also had another interesting comment during the '88 title game against OU. At half, with the game tied at 50 all, he proclaimed to Brent Musberger no way Kansas wins this game at this pace, OU is just too fast. Gotta love it.

Ron Franklin 12 years, 6 months ago

My memory isn't recalling what the heck happened. Carolina went on a 32-10 run themselves??

Any knowledgeable fans remember how that happened? Not that it really matters anymore, just curious what part of UNC's game plan changed that allowed them to come back like that/

Steve Brown 12 years, 6 months ago

Ralster: thanks.

A couple years ago I bought the CBS version of SanAntonio final four DVD and sad as it has shortend edited version of the UNC game & Memphis game .... I will search again for the full game..yes, Bill's speech priceless so very true.

This will be fitting warm up tape to watch before march this year, I do want to see Tyler Hansborough stuffed by the young COle one more time.

BCRavenJHawkfan 12 years, 6 months ago

BlownJay: This is one of the games nicely described in Self's book "At Home in the Phogg". According to that account it wasn't so much what Carolina did to generate a 32-10 run as much as it was that the KU defense was not what it was in that first half. Self indicated it was as close to perfect basketball he had ever seen from a team for an extended period of time. So in some sense that 32-10 run was KU coming back to earth and Carolina putting out more effort. But that effort gassed them. Which was another thing in the book Self mentioned. The KU effort in the first half, while intense, did not take much out of KU, it seamed effortless, very efficient.

Steve Brown 12 years, 6 months ago

2008 Kansas NCAA Title Run– Six Games One Championship $120.00

from CBS store, a ton of $$ if you only get edited shorten versions of the six games...priceless if it has every second...+ the on air commentary...

the other san antonio CBS DVD with the Final Four 'hat' on the cover was edited short versions of the games...a bad buy for me....

KANSTUCKY 12 years, 6 months ago

I think Williams said it seemed like KU had eight men on the floor in the first half. Awesome.

ObiWan 12 years, 6 months ago

Cole was mistaken in his quote...Jeremy Case had come to Kansas to play for Roy. He was part of the dud class of the '03-'04 season, featuring Jeremy, David Padgett, JR Giddens and Omar Wilkes. Case was still on the team because he redshirted after his freshman year. I enjoyed this game about as much as any game I've ever watched, because after Davidson I didn't think we could beat UNC. Self is right, we played PERFECT basketball for 13 minutes or so in the first half.

KU08 12 years, 6 months ago

Time for a "where were you when..." moment:

This was the most fun I ever had watching a game. I was at 23rd Street Brewery in Lawrence. My group arrived a little after 3pm, so we could get a table (not really necessary but still worth it). I can't remember what time the game started, but I know it was the late game, which meant we were at the brewery at least seven hours. The brewery was of course packed with Lawrence's finest, including White Owl doing his dance. Funny thing is, I remember nothing about the UCLA-Memphis game - no one really cared. After the game, I swear everyone at the brewery was off to Mass. St (with a designated driver, of course). Because of the blowout, this game was far more fun than the following game.

One more thing I just remembered during the game: when UNC was getting blown away, the camera switched to Ol' Roy with a pathetic look on his face, and, I swear, everyone in the brewery laughed. Most of us said we were over him, but that moment showed just how much beating him meant to the fans. I loved it.

Matt Lacey 12 years, 6 months ago

Ralster, that's awesome to know that any game can be gotten on DVD. I contacted tons of places after my dubbed VHS of the 1995 UCLA game (my 1st real game at AFH as a freshman from a football state) got too grainy. Looks like one of them took my suggestion. Need to get the 1996 Cincinnati comeback and the Dicky V standing O for Collison games too.

UncleMiltyN 12 years, 6 months ago

For many KU fans that felt betrayed by Ole Roy, winning this game and the title made the bad voices stop.

I love the first ten minutes of this game. I still have it on my DVR and watch it for a pick me up...

Lance Hobson 12 years, 6 months ago

I loved that game so much, but I wish I could look back on it without thinking of that run UNC made. Still, Packer's stunned comment said it all. Roy's teams often were a little soft, and the way that Self team came out and thumped UNC early told me a lot about the era Self brought to KU.

We may win ugly at times, but we are going to bring some toughness to the fight. The JW sure has it right about that 40-12 score - it really is something no one will ever forget.

wyansas 12 years, 6 months ago

In the post game press conference vid, Darnell and Brandon keep laughing at Cole while he's answering questions.

prudenthawk 12 years, 6 months ago

 It stung to lose Coach Williams, as it stung to lose Coach Brown. They had both taken our team to new heights, when we feared a return to mediocrity or worse. There isn't much room at the top of the greasy pole and success is never permanent-we finished last in the Big 8 standings my senior year of 1972-73 if memory serves. It is somewhat sanctimonious for North Carolina fans to chastise Kansas fans for criticizing a man who just wanted to go home. They would have felt the same way toward Dean Smith if he had returned to coach K.U. in 1983. In addition, you don't look people in the eye, say you'll never leave, and then leave three years later without creating hard feelings. That being said, enough with the Coach Williams bashing. It's unbecoming. In the first place Coach Williams took over a program that was somewhat fragile despite winning the national championship. Danny Manning wasn't going to run out of the tunnel in uniform again. With Coach Williams at the helm we had the most victories of any program over that 15 year period. Show proper gratitude for that. Coach Williams had a sick sister and father in North Carolina who needed him closer (you have to take a man at his word for that.) Mr. Al Bohl wouldn't win any popularity contests with us, so why would we expect Coach Williams to respect him as a boss? Coach Williams is a true Jayhawk fan, in every game but one, despite the rotten eggs and tomatoes that have been cast at him from these precincts. He had the grace to wear the Jayhawk decal on his breast two days after a deflating loss to us-that took class. I don't know the man personally, but trust the judgment of Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, Raef Lafrentz, Ryan Robertson, Jacque Vaughn, T.J. Pugh and others in the pantheon on this matter. You can wish the best for Coach Williams, give him credit where credit was due, and still be a rabid Kansas fan. Finally, any sting we might have felt at Coach William's departure should have vanished when Drue Jennings hired Coach Self. It was manifestly clear when Coach Self was at Illinois and Coach Williams was at Kansas that Coach Self didn't have to take a back seat to Coach Williams, or any other college basketball coach. Illinois had remarkable success on his watch. They beat us like a drum in the 2001 regional semifinal game. Our great 2002 team was a close but no cigar Frank Williams's shot at the end of the game from another early exit from the tourney. We should all be grateful we were thrown in the brier patch we found ourselves in when Coach Williams departed. Take a cue from Coach Self and treat Coach Williams with the respect and gratitude he is due.

jaybate 12 years, 6 months ago

Easily the greatest ten minutes of defensive baskeball in the history of the game by the greatest defensive team in the history of college basketball.

Self, the defense-first coach, and his band of ball-hawking Jayhawks, penned a defensive master piece in which arguably, the lesser team, KU, literally stole the game in the first ten minutes, and then hung on for dear life as a magnificiently well-rounded UNC team, though one with a lesser defense than KU's, caught fire and roared back to near victory, from an impossibly lop-sided early deficit.

The game hinged on the see-saw of emotion orchestrated by two coaches that are among the greatest emotional motivators in the history of college basketball. Self had his players on an emotional razor's edge and juiced to a competitive level I have never seen another KU team reach. Williams, after trying not to get his team too high for the game and falling way behind as a result, pulled out all the emotional stops, and lit a fire under his team that practically ignited the atmosphere. But in the end, KU was just too good for UNC that day and the greatest single defensive performance in a college game by the greatest defensive team in the history of the game, proved once again, that defense wins championships.

The game was so great that the national championship was just a game to get out of the way afterwards.

flinch 12 years, 6 months ago

Does jaybate ever get tired of typing purple prose or listening to hisown voice?

fansincewilt 12 years, 6 months ago

The article by Jaybate needs a little prelude to go with the body to become one of the all-time greatest posts.

KGphoto 12 years, 5 months ago

Does flinch ever get jealous? wyansas?

jb, your assuredness alone grants some respect. Reflections of the '80 hockey gold. Beat the Russians, then finish the job.

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