SAN ANTONIO, Tx.— It came down to two teams laced with great athletic ability and depth playing for who was the best on April 7.
As part of a small handful of preseason favorites to win it all, Conference USA’s Memphis Tigers and the Big 12’s Kansas Jayhawks had an old-fashioned shoot out, in a place known for historical battles.
The NCAA Men’s Championship saw the Jayhawks come out victorious in overtime 75-68, grabbing their first title since their 1988 run. The loss sent the Tigers home with a school and NCAA record 38 wins on the season, but without what would have been their first championship in school history.
With a number of future pros on both sides, the major difference makers were in the back court.
Led by freshman stud point guard Derrick Rose and junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Tigers had the stage set for them. Kansas countered with the 6-foot-6 big man at point in Brandon Rush and fellow leading scorer junior Mario Chalmers.
Good defense and inside play was part of the story in the first half as the Jayhawks held the Tigers in check going into the half up 33-28. Darrell Arthur led the way in scoring for Kansas, with a double-double for 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The second half was the real story, however, as the Tigers made their move going on a 9-0 run at one point and seeming in control. Rose took over the game, scoring 14 of his team's 16 points late, lifting the Tigers to a 60-51 lead with 2:12 left to play.
Coming into the game, many critics wondered if time would run out for the Tigers in one of their most scrutinized areas of play throughout the season, the free-throw line. They were 12th in their conference at 61 percent shooting during the season, but had fared better throughout the tourney, shooting 70 percent.
Their luck finally ran out at the worst time as they missed four of five free throws that would have put the game and the title out of reach for KU with 1:15 left in regulation.
On the contrary, the usual suspects stepped up big for the Jayhawks when it counted, as Chalmers became the hero, hitting a jumper with nine seconds on the clock to tie the score at 63-63. The shot came on what looked like a busted play when Sherron Collins stumbled with the ball on his way up court.
Somehow, he still managed to hand the ball to Chalmers before he fell. Chalmers then let it fly on an off-balance fade-away that was all net, sending the game into an extra five minutes for overtime.
Kansas then put the game away, outscoring the Tigers 12-5 in OT.
“It pretty much just came down to them just winning the game,” Douglas-Roberts said afterwards.
Memphis Coach John Calipari was more reflective.
“It just boils down to the fact that everything happens for a reason,” Calipari said.
“It is one thing to win; it is another to win the way that we did,” said Kansas Head Coach Bill Self.