But then something strange happened. Trailing by 12 points with less than seven minutes remaining -- the deficit had been as large as 18 -- the Jayhawks rose from their chairs after a timeout, walked onto the Superdome court.
"No one could tell us that we were going to lose except for the scoreboard," guard Elijah Johnson said. "We said, 'If they're going to beat us, they're going to remember us. They're going to feel the last of us.'"
Kentucky certainly did.
KU coach Bill Self may have come up short in his quest for a second NCAA title, but he and his players will leave New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon brimming with pride. Instead of folding against a Wildcats squad stacked with future pros, the Jayhawks clawed back and threw a scare into Kentucky before eventually succumbing 67-59.
"We didn't lay down," point guard Tyshawn Taylor said, "and we easily could've. If anything, we can feel good about that."
... "We always say somebody -- sometimes even me -- could've given 5 percent more or even 10 percent more," Self said. "But with this group, I don't know if they had any more to give.
"They gave us just about everything they had."
... "From Day 1, we heard about how we weren't going to do this or we weren't going to do that," Johnson said. "Ever since the [Morris] twins decided they were going to the draft and we lost all our seniors -- for us to get this far with the worst-talented team that I've been a part of at Kansas, I'm proud of this team. I love this team. I'll remember this team forever."
"The whole ride felt so good," he said. "I just wish the ending was a little different."
ESPN Jason King