UDK Photos: Kansas knocks off Ohio State
UDK Photos: Mass St celebrates
UDK Photos: KU students pre game and that awful garage they had to line up in
Self, a grin as wide as a mouth can stretch spreading across his face, turned briefly and looked at Robinson, shook his head and mouthed, "Wow."
Perhaps the only people more shocked than Jared Sullinger, who sat jersey over his head in the middle of the court after the buzzer solidified Kansas' 64-62 win over Ohio State were the Jayhawks.
Find a locker room, any locker room in any sport, and you will find athletes lined up to insist they knew they could and would succeed and achieve, no matter how improbable the odds or ragtag the roster.
Not at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Ten minutes after Kansas landed itself in a national championship game against Kentucky, there was as much stupefied disbelief as unfiltered joy filling the steamy Jayhawk locker room.
"I'm shocked. I never thought we'd be playing for a national championship,'' Robinson said. "The last two teams I've been on, they were probably the best teams I've ever been part of. I never thought I'd be on a team like that again, but those teams never got where we are.''
It's almost blasphemous to put the words "Kansas" and "surprise" in to the same sentence. Lawrence is, after all, where the good Dr. Naismith chose to take his newfangled game and clever mind. They've done a little bit since then, too, winning three national titles and assuming a permanent position among basketball royalty.
…Sullinger is not the first player to be dumbstruck by the Kansas steamroller.
Missouri is still trying to figure out where its 19-point lead went and Robbie Hummel has no idea how Kansas ended his career.
"It's weird how it's like that for us,'' Taylor said. "I don't know, it's like when we get down it somehow makes our offense better, like we cherish the ball more or something.''
This game was quintessential KU, circa 2012. The Jayhawks led 2-0 and not again until 2:48 remained in the game. In between, Ohio State stretched its advantage to as many as 13 and a solid nine at the break.
Self mixed a little preaching with a little screaming at the break, striking the perfect balance for his team.
"There's no 13-point plays,'' Self said. "You have to grind it, get one stop at a time.''
This was certainly that, a grind. It made up for in pure entertainment what it lacked in aesthetics, a body brawl where every loose ball was fought for to the death.
…But this is no typical Kansas team. This was the one that wasn't supposed to win the Big 12.
Of course, it did.
This is the one that was actually supposed to lose early in the NCAA tournament.
Of course, it didn't.
"It's been a blur of a season," Robinson said, mystified. "I can't even remember the last two games. I'm not sure I remember this one.
But I do know we've surprised a few people.''
"They wanted it more at the end," said Sullinger, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. "They started to convert when we could not convert. When they saw blood, they attacked us and we weren't able to pick it up."
The semifinal loss marked only the second time Ohio State has been defeated this season after leading at halftime (27-2).
There comes a time in each game, particularly one played on a stage as large as this, that’s remembered not only as important, but as iconic. Clarkson’s job is to capture that moment, the marriage of timing, angles and luck. Mario Chalmers’ three-pointer in 2008. David Thompson’s drive to the basket in ’74. Lew Alcindor’s famous hook shot against Houston in ’68. Clarkson and his camera were there.
On Saturday, that moment happened with 1:18 to play, when Jayhawks center Jeff Withey blocked a shot, allowing Elijah Johnson to run upcourt for a layup and a three-point lead that was enough to beat the Buckeyes.
Clarkson’s shutter was snapping, a thousand frames shot throughout a game to capture that single one.
“Not just the most dramatic picture,” he said, “but what the most significant picture is.”
After a mostly forgettable first half, this shot didn’t seem possible. During halftime, former Jayhawks great Wayne Simien sat in a section with other former KU players, looking nervous. Larry Brown, the former Jayhawks coach, stood and sipped a Coke, a hopeful look on his face. Danny Manning, working his next-to-last game as Jayhawks coach Bill Self’s assistant before moving on to become the head coach at Tulsa, stood at the team’s locker-room doorway, fist-bumping each player as they exited, and repeating a rallying cry for effort.
“Every possession,” Manning kept saying.
And when one player walked past the coach without responding, Manning made certain the message was absorbed.
“Hey!” said Manning, who Clarkson remembered as a favorite and whom he captured for a Sports Illustrated cover in 1988. “Every possession.”
…In the final minutes Saturday, there was a feeling growing at the Superdome.
Those in the student section were screaming, one waving an oversized cutout of Self’s head. Someone held a sign that suggested Self should run for president.
They smiled and high-fived, blue Mardi Gras beads bouncing as they jumped.
During a ferocious final minute, the Jayhawks held off the Buckeyes’ comeback attempt, and after a steal by Tyshawn Taylor with 6 seconds left, it was done. KU would be playing for a championship. Self’s expression was worthy of a photograph: He smiled as if he’d just gotten away with something.
When the final buzzer sounded, Simien raised his left arm and smiled, bouncing with a beat that must’ve been in his head. Brown, who coached Manning to a championship two dozen years ago, screamed and raised his arms, shaking hands with passersby.
The cushions flew again. The noise was back — and deafening.
“It’s on!” Johnson shouted as he left the floor, a moment before Travis Releford threw his wristbands into the crowd.
As the dome buzzed, the KU band playing the school’s alma mater, the white-haired photographer turned away from the floor and looked toward the student section. He had his shot: a good one, he would say later, of Withey’s block. He smiled.
“The string will come to an end one of these days,” Clarkson had said earlier.
Then he raised his camera, pointed it toward the students, and clicked the shutter.
Thousands of padded, orange seat cushions — a Final Four gift to the 73,361 fans who crammed inside the Superdome — cascaded toward the court in a mini-hurricane from just about every nook and cranny of the world’s largest indoor stadium.
Irate over how the final 2.9 seconds of their 64-62 loss to Kansas in the national semifinals of the NCAA tournament unfolded last night, Ohio State fans threw their cushions and caution to the wind.
But the Buckeyes’ anger didn’t change the referee’s indisputably correct call of a lane violation against Ohio State guard Aaron Craft that sealed Kansas’ bizarre comeback victory, which gave the Jayhawks (32-6) an improbable march into the national championship game Monday night against No. 1 Kentucky.
Kansas University’s basketball team — the one with no McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster — will play in the national championship game Monday night.
“I can’t believe this,” ninth-year KU coach Bill Self said of his thoughts following a one-for-the-ages, 64-62 come-from-behind victory over Ohio State in Saturday’s Final Four semifinal at the Superdome.
“Of all the teams to make it this far ... ”
This somewhat-flawed KU team (32-6) erased a 13-point first-half deficit and nine-point halftime deficit and defeated a Buckeye team (31-8) for the second time this season.
“This has aged me a lot,” Self said with a smile, “but I’ve also never had more fun coaching a group of kids. How cool is it that the two winningest programs of all time play Monday for the national championship?”
…Up three, Self elected to foul Craft in the backcourt rather than let the Buckeyes attempt a game-tying trey.
“If they were in a two-shot situation, I might not have done it,” Self said of fouling, “but the first one was the one with pressure (in a one-and-one situation). He made it. The second one, he crossed the line way too early.”
Indeed, with OSU down two and its only hope a wacky rebound and stickback shot, Craft instead stepped over the line while horsing up a quick free-throw shot, and KU was able to inbound and end the game.
“That’s coach Self being the genius he is,” Robinson said. “We’re up three with under five seconds left, no reason to let them get a snip at a three. We fouled them and got the ball back and won the game.”
Taylor’s team led by a point with eight seconds left when Lenzelle Smith Jr. committed a foul that sent KU’s senior guard from Hoboken, N.J., into as pressure-packed a moment as he ever experienced. At least that’s how it should have been, but this being the opposite-universe basketball team, he felt none of it.
“I was relaxing,” he said. “I was looking in the crowd. I was smiling. I walked up to the line knowing I was going to make it. I’ve been in that situation a few times this year. Some resulted in us losing, and some won us some games.”
And what did he see when he looked into a dome filled with 73,361 spectators?
“I saw my mom in the crowd blowing me a kiss,” Taylor said. “I saw the (Morris) twins, or one of them anyway. I saw all the fans in the crowd yelling and smiling.”
He made both free throws to give Kansas a 64-61 lead, and that’s not the last thing he did that made half the crowd want to hug him.
He overheard a conversation between Aaron Craft, who so badly outplayed him in the first half, and a teammate, and applied what he heard to steal the ball in the backcourt with five seconds left to seal the game. Wait, not so fast. This is Taylor, remember? This is the opposite-universe team, remember?
Instead of dribbling the clock out, Taylor threw a one-handed, cross-court bounce pass intended for Elijah Johnson, but nowhere near him. There was a receiver in the area, so it wasn’t an intentional grounding. The problem was, the receiver was wearing a suit and tie, and his name was Bill Self, the ninth-year coach who has had at least one McDonald’s All-American on all of his Kansas teams except this one.
“‘I was open, Ty, but you threw it three feet behind me,’” Taylor recounted Self telling him, his smile lighting up the locker room.
“I thought they did a tremendous job on me,” a dejected Sullinger said in the OSU locker room. “They crowded the floor, and I couldn’t really make a move. It caught me off guard.”
…“Obviously, you gotta make adjustments on the go and change the game plan,” Ravenel said. “That (double-team) was one of the things we talked about, but it’s tough seeing Thomas Robinson in there, who’s 6-10, he’s got long arms and a big, wide body and then Jeff Withey, who’s a 7-footer. It’s tough to see over that. And then they have those guards that play that NFL DB style, they just sit back, wait for you to throw the ball and then go get it.”
Kind of like Ohio State guard Aaron Craft?
“Just like Aaron,” Ravenel said. “They got three Aarons out there. Three bigger versions of Aaron.”
Teahan also tried to help KU’s luck late. With a few minutes left, he surrendered his seat next to assistant coach Danny Manning, telling Kevin Young, “You got it.”
The two made the same switch in the final minutes of KU’s overtime victory over Missouri at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this year.
Luck aside, Teahan’s biggest contribution was the three-pointer that kept the Jayhawks close enough to make a push late — a shot he let fly, just as his coach told him to.
“I know that even throughout this whole entire year, the way I’ve been shooting the ball from three-point has been something that has been disappointing to myself,” Teahan said. “… But (Coach) still has had faith in me, so that means a ton.”
“Sometimes it happens,” Sullinger said. “The ball rolls that way.”
Or it gets stuffed by Jeff Withey, who blocked seven shots including big ones at the beginning and end of the second half.
Releford’s free throws and his hustle finishing plays on run-outs.
Elijah Johnson collecting 10 rebounds on a night when he missed a big chunk of the second half after collecting his fourth foul.
Tyshawn Taylor picking up nine assists and outplaying Aaron Craft after the Ohio State guard controlled the game in the first half.
And once again, Kansas went to the triangle-and-two defense to slow down an Ohio State team that was playing at full strength. Remember, All-America Jared Sullinger didn’t play against the Jayhawks in KU’s regular-season victory in December.
Ohio State led 55-49 with 5:22 remaining when, once again in NCAA play, Kansas started making huge plays.
Thomas Robinson, who led the way with 19 hard-earned points, knocked down a jumper. Johnson scored at the basket on a run out, and when Releford hit two free throws with 2:48 left, Kansas led 56-55, its first lead since 2-0.
In December of 2010, it didn't look like Elijah Johnson would be part of a Final Four run at Kansas. Especially one occurring 18 months later.
Early last season, there were rampant rumors that Johnson was leaving the Jayhawks and transferring elsewhere. His playing time was fluctuating, and sources said Bill Self was frustrated and wasn't sure Johnson would last in Lawrence.
Johnson has done more than just last at Kansas. He's become a key facet in the Jayhawks' run to the national title game.
“I never paid the rumors any mind,” Johnson said on Sunday. “It was during my sophomore year, when the rumors started about me leaving. I never wanted to leave Kansas.
“Coming to Kansas was big for me; the last thing I wanted to do was leave. The only way I was leaving Kansas was getting kicked out.”
…Johnson is tops on the team in steals and 3-pointers made, and also ranks third in points and second in assists.
In the past month, Johnson has stepped up in a major way. After scoring in double-figures 12 times in the first 31 games, Johnson has reached that threshold in seven consecutive contests. The 6-foot-4 junior from Las Vegas is averaging 15.4 points and shooting better than 44 percent from 3-point range during that stretch.
In fact, one can make the argument that Johnson has been the most consistent offensive player for Kansas during that stretch.
“Lately, Elijah has been the guy,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said.
Against Ohio State on Saturday night, Johnson shot 6-for-9 from the field, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Before Saturday night’s game, junior guard Travis Releford pulled the same joke on freshman forward Kevin Young that he has every game this season. Only this time, the joke turned into reality. This time, the joke helped send Kansas to the national championship game.
Young likes to shoot around 20 to 30 free throws before the game so he feels comfortable enough to shoot them in the action. And every time he does this, Releford asks to get a couple of shots in. Young will deny Releford, saying he wants a few more shots of his own.
Then, the joke comes.
“He’ll just say, ‘hey, all you need is two,’” Young said. “‘All you need is two. Watch, get out of the way.’ I’ll move out the way and he shoots two. And then he’s ready to go.”
Releford tells Young that he doesn’t need to shoot a million free throws before the game. That he shouldn’t overthink his free throws. Two free throws to get the feel, and he’s good.
And Releford got to put his words of advice to use Saturday, as he made four pressure-filled free throws that helped Kansas beat Ohio State 64-62.
The first of his two visits to the free throw line came with two minutes and 48 seconds left in the game. Kansas was one point shy of a share of the lead for the first time since the clock read 18:06 in the first half.
There was a strange dynamic of Ohio State fans screaming, hoping to keep their slipping lead, and Kansas fans silently awaiting the free throws, stunned their team was even in the game.
The pressure was on, but instead of overthinking the free throws, he shot them just as he would in practice. He had the “feel,” just as he told Young.
The first shot dropped. Tie game. 55-55. The second followed. Kansas took the lead, 56-55.
But then Kansas lost its lead, until a whistle put Releford on the free throw line once again. Just like last time, Kansas was trailing by one and needed the two freebies from Releford.
Yet he did not stress. He delivered. Releford gave the Jayhawks a 60-59 need that they never let go of.
“My whole thought process was just take my time, relax and knock these free throws down,” Releford said. “And that’s what I did.”
It was Releford who was the unexpected hero during Saturday’s game. He made four pressure-filled free throws when the Jayhawks needed them most. He guarded Ohio State stud William Buford for the entire game while scoring 15 points of his own.
Kansas over the course of five NCAA Tournament games has been outscored by six in the first half and yet is plus-40 in the second. It makes sense for a team that, while not as skilled and athletic and explosive and deep as past ones under Self, is as tough as any of them.
Ohio State might have played its finest first half of the season Saturday, while the Jayhawks were awful those opening 20 minutes and trailed by nine. Crazy. Kansas couldn't have hoped for a better position.
There is no easy way around trailing as much as it has this tournament, at rallying to beat the likes of Purdue and North Carolina. You have to come back at the defensive end. You have to crash the boards and get a ton of stops and win weird but important statistic battles such as offensive rebounding percentage. You have to get a few calls at opportune times. It all happened Saturday.
The Jayhawks shot 3-for-11 on 3-pointers, committed 17 turnovers, trailed by 13 five times and won a national semifinal. That's pretty amazing.
They did so because as good as junior Thomas Robinson was (19 points, eight rebounds), a kid few outside the Big 12 knew about before this tournament began exposed one everyone has known about for some time.
Jeff Withey was long enough to block seven shots and make Jared Sullinger a nonfactor, to limit the Ohio State star who missed an earlier game against Kansas this season with injury to 13 points on 5-for-19 shooting. Sullinger hardly resembled the NBA lottery pick most project him to be.
They did so because a guard like Cheyenne High School product Elijah Johnson went for 13 points and 10 rebounds while fighting foul trouble, because another guard like Tyshawn Taylor had nine assists in 37 minutes, the same Taylor who is oh-for-30 on 3s in the tournament.
Read that last part again.
You know that whole business about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts ... that's Kansas, right down to the crazy-looking bird mascot.
"Give Kansas credit," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "They were fighting for their lives. Their season was on the line. We just didn't have an edge about us to start the second half. We lost the momentum and couldn't get it back."
Las Vegas RJ
Former KU head coaches Ted Owens, Larry Brown and Roy Williams joined Bill Self in the Superdome on Saturday. Williams, ninth-year head coach at North Carolina, sat with his wife, Wanda, at center court in a section that included college head coaches Lon Kruger (Oklahoma), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Tubby Smith (Minnesota) and former Arizona coach Lute Olson, among others. Williams, who wore a KU sticker during the national title game in 2008, had no sticker on his lapel this time. Brown has been with KU’s traveling party throughout the NCAA Tournament. Owens has also attended several KU games this season.
Faces in crowd: Some famous faces in attendance: former KU great Clyde Lovellette, who was introduced at halftime as an incoming inductee into the Hall of Fame; actor Rob Riggle, who spoke to KU fans at the pre-game pep rally; former KU players Jeremy Case, now an assistant at SE Missouri State; Jeff Boschee, assistant at Missouri Southern; Greg Dreiling, advance scout of the Dallas Mavericks, as well as former Jayhawks Nick Bradford, Lewis Harrison, Mike Maddox, Christian Moody, Marcus Morris, Dave Robisch, Wayne Simien, Bud Stallworth, Stephen Vinson, Walt Wesley and Julian Wright. Also, former KU director of basketball operations Ronnie Chalmers.