Kansas title thrills UNC coaches
By Bret Strelow
SAN ANTONIO ó Roy Williams posed for a picture with a Kansas fan, then grabbed a camera to take a snapshot of his son and daughter-in-law.
Williams, dressed with a “KU” sticker attached to the front of his black mock turtleneck, didn’t lead the Jayhawks to a national title in 15 seasons as the school’s head coach.
They fared dramatically better with Williams and longtime assistant Joe Holladay in attendance as devoted spectators.
Kansas captured its third NCAA championship by scratching and clawing its way to a 75-68 overtime win against Memphis at the Alamodome on Monday night.
Mario Chalmers drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining in regulation, and Brandon Rush’s layup 30 seconds into the extra session gave the Jayhawks (37-3) the lead for good.
Williams, who left Kansas for North Carolina five years ago, stood and clapped as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“If we can’t get it,” Holladay said, “we’re happy they did.”
Before tipoff, former Kansas star Jacque Vaughn located his college coaches in the seventh row of the cheering section behind the Jayhawks’ bench and blew a kiss toward Williams’ gathering of family members.
Williams took over at Kansas three months after the Jayhawks won the national title in 1988, and weeks later the NCAA placed the program on probation for violations that occurred prior to his arrival.
Kansas reached the championship game twice in Williams’ tenure. It lost to Syracuse in the 2003 final, and North Carolina hired Williams one week later. He won his first title as a head coach in 2005, and the Jayhawks ended a 20-year drought by erasing a nine-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation against Memphis.
“I’m a little overwhelmed, totally humbled,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I don’t know if a coach really deserves what happened to me tonight because I don’t know if it could have been any better, any time, anywhere.”
Memphis, which shot 61 percent from the line en route to setting the NCAA’s single-season record for victories, went 1-for-5 on free throws in the final 75 seconds of the second half.
Derrick Rose made the second of two attempts with 10.8 seconds left to push the Tigers (38-2) ahead 63-60, and Kansas guard Sherron Collins stumbled as he dumped the ball off to Chalmers with time winding down.
Chalmers faded left toward the top of the key and released a high-arching shot that swished through the net.
“I had a person in my face,” said Chalmers, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “It was just a lucky shot.”
Rose scored 14 of his 18 points in a 16-6 run that staked the Tigers to a 56-49 lead with 4:13 remaining. A basket by Kansas forward Darrell Arthur, who had a team-high 20 points and 10 rebounds, pulled the Jayhawks to within 60-53 with 1:56 left.
Collins followed a timeout with a steal in the backcourt. He received a pass in the right corner, where he had forced the turnover three seconds earlier, and made a 3-pointer.
Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts (game-high 22 points) hit two free throws with 1:39 left, extending the Tigers’ streak of consecutive makes to five, and Chalmers answered with a pair of free throws to trim the deficit to four. Douglas-Roberts missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:15 left, and Arthur made a field goal 15 seconds later.
The Tigers still led 62-60 when Douglas-Roberts missed two tries from the line with 16.8 seconds left, but teammate Robert Dozier grabbed the offensive rebound. The Jayhawks fouled Rose with 10.8 seconds left, and he failed on the first attempt before converting the second one.
Rose and Douglas-Roberts, who went a combined 20-for-23 at the line in a semifinal win against UCLA, were 6-for-10 in the final 25 minutes of the title game.
“I wish we would have made the free throws,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “Let’s put it this way: Did we have the guys at the line that we wanted at the line? Yeah. They don’t make every one. They’re not machines, these kids. Under that glare of that significance, I’m still kind of numb, to be honest with you.”
Calipari, in his eighth season at Memphis, nearly won his first title two years after he considered taking a different job.
He visited N.C. State because of his interest in the school’s coaching vacancy one week after the 2006 championship game, and his desire to stay at Memphis conflicted with his staff’s wish to relocate to Raleigh.
Calipari didn’t depart, and his team reached the Elite Eight last season. The Tigers went two steps further this year, but they were doomed by a 1-for-8 shooting performance in the first overtime needed to decide a title game since 1997.
“It’s one thing to win,” Self said. “It’s another thing to win the way we did.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or email@example.com.
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