Archive for Saturday, January 4, 1992

ROBERTS ANOTHER TRIPLE LETTERMAN

January 4, 1992

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Multitalented Crimson and Blue athletes?

Thanks to Gary Ace, former Kansas University trackman now a dentist in Emporia, I'm reminded of another three-letter Jayhawk from modern times.

This guy, listed as the 33rd triple letterman in KU history, hit the winning points in one of the most exciting, unique basketball games you'll ever see. It was a fierce battle which produced what is still the most courageous individual performance I've seen on a court. But not by my three-monogram guy, valuable as he was. He applied the clincher in a reserve role.

Anybody remember 6-4 Jay Roberts from Des Moines?

Jay, a 1964 KU graduate, played tight end for Jack Mitchell's Kansas football teams of 1961-63, lettered in basketball under Dick Harp in '62 and '63, and did likewise as a high jumper for Bill Easton the same two years.

Dr. Ace was a fraternity brother of both Roberts and Steve Renko, the 34th three-letter Jayhawk (football-basketball-baseball). Steve had a long, productive major league baseball career. Gary still marvels how Roberts never seemed to take a note in class yet absorbed the lectures and made excellent grades.

THE NIGHT of Dec. 29, 1962, Roberts poked in a 12-foot jump shot with three seconds left to give Kansas a 90-88 four-overtime victory over Kansas State. It happened in the finals of the 17th Big Eight holiday tournament in Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium. Roberts entered the game with a 1.6-point average, but scored three critical buckets.

Any time a Jayhawk fan forms a top 10 list of Kansas-Kansas State classics, this one has to be on it. (K-State fans don't view it quite that fondly, considering the outcome.)

The hall was packed with nearly 11,000 bodies. Kansas State led much of the game and on at least three occasions the Wildcats seemed to have it in the bag. Each time the Jayhawks, sparked by an incomparable 60-minute performance by a superhuman Nolen Ellison, managed to claw their way back.

Ellison, a Kansas City product, finished with 32 points. His 20-foot bomb with two seconds left forced a third overtime and his two free throws with three seconds left produced a fourth. It was also a night of unlikely heroes.

Center John Matt like Jay Roberts came off the bench and scored 10 big points after starter George Unseld fouled out with 26 points, 21 in the first half. Matt's two free throws and a layup sparked KU to an 86-82 lead at the start of the fourth overtime, and it was the first time Kansas had led since the end of regulation play.

LARRY COHAN and Willie Murrell scored for K-State to tie it, then KU's Dave Schichtle potted two free throws with 1:48 left to make it 88-86. Atchison's Junior Miller banked a running jumper high off the backboard from 17 feet and it was 88-all with 1:11 left. There was no 45-second clock, and that's how it stayed until Roberts took a deft feed from Ellison and popped in his determiner at :03.

K-State led 43-41 at the half and often had an edge on the scoreboard. With the count at 70-all, KU's Ellison hinted he might be a mere mortal by missing two long shots in the final seven seconds capping a two-minute Jayhawk stall. The first overtime ended at 74-74, Ellison made his shot to tie it at 80 in the second OT, and it was 82-82 after three extra periods because Ellison had scored two charities after K-State seemed to have it.

In addition to Ellison, Unseld, Matt, Schichtle and Roberts, Kerry Bolton, Jim Dumas and Harry Gibson played in this thriller. Note that Unseld from Louisville and Roberts from Des Moines were non-Kansans . . . Ellison and Gibson were from Wyandotte, Matt from Minneapolis, Dumas from Topeka, Schichtle from Coffeyville and Bolton from Shawnee Mission North. K-State played 12 men and was led by Murrell's 28 points, Gary Marriott's 24 and Roger Suttner's 12.

No matter what the score. I've never seen a one-man basketball performance over 60 pressure-packed minutes like the one Ellison gave that night. He's now a leading educator in Cleveland, and has long been an outstanding alumni worker for KU.

KANSAS' 1992 football schedule has Oregon State and Ball State, but recent bowl victors Tulsa, which posted a 10-2 record, and rebuilt California will give KU two hellatious early tests.

No way when you schedule teams so far ahead to know how they might improve. TCU used to beat KU like a drum, so the Jayhawks shifted to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders unveiled Donny Anderson and Co. for the Jayhawks in the mid-1960s. No relief.

At one time, Cal looked like a fairly moderate foe, but it's become ferocious and will be good again next year. We can be sure Tulsa will be lying in wait after KU's win in '91. KU will be improved but still will struggle to do better than 2-2 in non-league play.

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