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Archive for Tuesday, April 5, 1988

KU players waiting for win to sink in

April 5, 1988

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— He was the only Kansas basketball player who didn't step on the floor during the NCAA championship game. Marvin Mattox didn't care, though.

"This is better than ANYTHING," Mattox cooed after the Jayhawks' 83-79 win over Oklahoma. "It's better than BIRTH."

That's pretty big, all right.

Not all the Jayhawks who encountered the media here in their locker room after capturing the school's first NCAA title in 36 years were as effervescent as Mattox, a senior football player who had been a junior varsity player most of the season.

Junior Scooter Barry, for instance, was one Jayhawk who hadn't seemed to have grasped the significance yet, and he knew it.

"I think we're still in a stage of shock. I'm waiting for the next team we have to play." Barry said. "Now that we've hit it, I don't think we realize we've peaked. But this is it."

SENIOR CHRIS Piper confessed he felt the same way.

"We almost feel like it can't be over," Piper said, "that there has to be another game."

Piper has no more games remaining, but what memories he'll have about his two "last" games. In his final high school outing, Piper helped Lawrence High win the 1983 Class 6A state title. And, of course, Kansas won the national championship on Monday night in his last college game.

"There's no comparison, really," Piper said about his state and national basketball championships. "Relatively speaking, they're the ultimate achievement, but...it's unbelievable we're national champs. Unbelievable."

You gotta believe, and that's what the Jayhawks did...even though few gave Kansas much of a chance against a team that had defeated them twice during the regular season.

"All the media was talking about how we'd never do it," Barry said. "It all gave us such incentive, such faith in each other."

The betting line was eight points--a veritable gulf for a national title contest.

"EIGHT POINTS...that's a slap in the face," Piper said. "we're a good team. We're not the team we were early in the year."

Milt Newton was certainly a factor in the Jayhawks' late-season resurgence once he settled in after replacing the injured Archie Marshall.

Newton saved his best for the last game of the season. The 6-4 junior made all six shots he attempted Monday night, including two from three-point range.

"I twisted an ankle in the second half," said Newton who had to sit while the ankle was wrapped, "but I couldn't let it stop me."

Newton wondered in anybody could have stopped OU's Dave Sieger in the first half. Sieger connected on six of eight three-point goals despite having Newton hanging all over him.

"Hey, he was on fire," Newton said. "Believe it or not, I tipped some of 'em and they still went in. He kept them in the game in the first half."

Sieger cooled in the second half, missing four of five trey tries. He wasn't the only one. Coach Billy Tubbs used only six players, and three went that route.

"I think they were tired," Piper remarked. "Both teams were exhausted in the second half."

ONE OKLAHOMA player, Mookie Blaylock, disappeared after the game, much to the disappointment of KU's Lincoln Minor who went looking for his old teammate but couldn't find him.

"I wanted to shake his hand and congratulate him," Minor said. "They had a great year. They had nothing to be ashamed of at all."

Minor and Blaylock were the starting guards on the Midland, Texas, Juco team that lost the 1987 NJCAA title game to College of Southern Idaho by two points, meaning Blaylock has now suffered back-to-back hearbreakers.

There's no heartbreak at Kansas, though.

"I'm really pleased with everybody," Barry said, "but especially that we could give Danny, Chris and Archie a championship. I feel this is the greatest gift we could give them."

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