That's why Pierce, Kansas' junior forward from Inglewood, Calif., was miffed at himself for missing two potential game-winning free throws with 3.8 seconds left in regulation Wednesday night, KU tied with Arizona State, 78-78, at the Preseason NIT. Neither team scored after the misses, forcing overtime.
"No excuses. I've got to make those free throws," Pierce said after the Jayhawks' 90-88 overtime victory over the Sun Devils.
"I was kind of down on myself but I'm happy the team got the win and I'm not going to put head down."
Pierce scored 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting. He also grabbed nine rebounds in helping KU win the NIT semifinal contest and advance into Friday's 6:30 p.m. finals against Florida State.
"I just wanted to help my team. We were not playing well offensively against their zone," Pierce said. "I wanted to take the ball to the hole and build the team's confidence. I thought, 'This is a zone. We can penetrate and get inside.'''
- KU will meet Steve Robinson's Florida State team in Friday's finals. Robinson was an original member of Roy Williams' KU staff. He's in his first year at FSU after three years at Tulsa.
"I told him I just didn't want to see his big butt in the consolation game," Williams joked.
Robinson huddled in a Madison Square Garden hallway with Williams after Friday's doubleheader. Florida State beat UConn in the opener, 67-60.
- Kansas failed to lead at halftime for the first time this season.
- Season-high scoring -- T.J. Pugh with nine points, Billy Thomas with 19 and Paul Pierce with 28.
- Kansas outrebounded its opponent for the 12th consecutive game. KU's rebound margin of 43-34 against Arizona State was its smallest of the season.
- KU's last overtime game had been the double-overtime loss at Missouri last February, one of only two defeats suffered by the 1996-97 team.
- Kansas is 8-7 in overtime games played during Roy Williams' tenure.
- Pierce moved into the top 25 on KU's career scoring list, passing Kelly Knight, Rex Walters and Charlie Black for the No. 25 spot.
- Thomas now has 180 three-point goals. That puts him second on the school career list behind Adonis Jordan.
- Kansas won its 13th Preseason NIT game, all under Williams. Also, the Jayhawks continued a string of reaching the finals of every holiday tournament Williams has coached in.
- KU's 27 turnovers were the fourth-highest total in Williams' 10 seasons. It was the highest turnover total since 1992 when the Jayhawks were guilty of 29 against Colorado. Sixteen of KU's 27 TOs on Wednesday night were Arizona State steals.
- Attendance in the 20,000-plus seat Madison Square Garden was listed as 11,510. Kansas sold more than 200 tickets, and the majority of the crowd was cheering for the underdog Sun Devils.
-- Gary Bedore