Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The One That Got Away...

With 2:12 seconds remaining in the second half, the Memphis Tigers held a comfortable 60-51 lead over the Kansas Jayhawks. Memphis started the game slowly and trailed 33-28 at the half, but the Tigers had responded midway through the second half and now had complete control over the game. This is when the tide began to turn. After a Kansas basket, the Jayhawks stole the inbound and immediately hit a three to cut a 9 point lead to 4 in a matter of seconds. Next, Kansas' strategy was to make Memphis beat them at their worst aspect of the game: free throw shooting.

Memphis responded by shooting one for their last five at the line and gave Kansas one last glimpse of hope. A glimpse Mario Chalmers took full advantage of. With 10.8 seconds on the clock, Kansas' Sherron Collins took the inbound, crossed Derrick Rose, and hurried the ball up the court. Collins then handed the ball off to Chalmers who launched a contested shot over the out-stretched arm of Rose. Chalmers said it felt good when the ball left his hands & he couldn't have been more right as the ball hit nothing but net, tieing the game at 63 with 2.1 seconds left to play. After a missed half court prayer by Dozier, the game was heading for overtime. Kansas had put on an unbelievable 12-3 run to end regulation.

In overtime, with Memphis' Joey Dorsey fouled out of the game, and the momentum all on Kansas' side, the Jayhawks extended the run to 19-3, and took a comfortable 6 point lead early in overtime. The Tigers were never able to recover from the deficit and Kansas prevailed with a 75-68 victory. Kansas' Mario Chalmers, who Jim Nantz dubbed "Super Mario" after the game, received the honor of the Final Four's Most Valuable Player. Chalmers finished the game with 18 points and 4 steals.

With two minutes left in regulation Memphis had a championship in their sights. The players were all smiles, and the team was confident they had the game just about wrapped up. But, oh how quickly the tables turned when Kansas made its last push for greatness. Coach John Calipari of Memphis was criticized for some of his decision-making down the stretch. Many felt he should have used a timeout after Rose made the last free throw to increase the lead to 3 with 10.8 seconds left. Calipari also claimed that Memphis was trying to foul Kansas on their last possession to avoid allowing them to shoot a game-tying three, and gave credit to Collins for getting past Rose without giving Rose the chance to foul him. It seemed pretty obvious Rose had the opportunity to foul Collins but did not to attempt to, which would suggest not all the players knew they were in a fouling situation. A timeout after Rose's free throw would have given Calipari a chance to make sure his team knew the situation and what they were supposed to do.

However, what it all comes down to is plain and simple. Kansas stepped up and did everything they had to do in the closing two minutes of the game and in overtime. Memphis, on the other hand, did not. Calipari and his players claimed it did not matter that they shot 59% from the free throw line for the season, because they would always come through when the game was on the line. It isn't surprising that the team that had killed its championship hopes in the last few years with free throws, managed to do so again when the pressure was on. Memphis only has itself to blame for its complete breakdown with two minutes remaining. Kansas was well-deserving of the championship. When it mattered, they finished. Memphis had the championship in their hands, but could not finish. Now they are forced to live with the ill-taste of the game they let get away for the rest of their lives.

Image taken from Yahoo! Sports

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