Archive for Sunday, March 31, 2002

Despite loss, KU happy with year

March 31, 2002

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— Lucky coins, rubbing statues and spitting in a river be damned.

Hilary Smith, a Kansas University student who came to Atlanta on an alumni shuttle flight with 340 other Jayhawks, spoke for thousands of KU fans at the Final Four when she said this season had been a dream come true  no matter when it concluded.

"It would have ended too early even if it ended Monday night," she said after the Jayhawks fell Saturday to the Maryland Terrapins, 97-88.

Said KU coach Roy Williams of Saturday's loss: "We couldn't quite get over the hump." Despite the superstitious maneuverings of the past three weeks.

But the tearful Jayhawk leader reveled in his players' achievements.

"God, I enjoyed this year," Williams said.

The Jayhawks, 33-4, fell one game short of a date with the Indiana Hoosiers in the title game Monday.

Introduction of players sent chills down the spine of everyone from KU student Alex Stout, sitting courtside, to Jayhawk loyalist Dustin Emory, who was 100 yards away, way up in the dome's fourth deck.

"Physically, I'm far away from the action," Stout said, "but I really feel good."

A section bursting with wild-eyed KU students refused to sit down after the tip, and well they shouldn't have, as the Jayhawks jumped out to an early lead, before starting to lose control of the game. At intermission, the Terrapins were up 44-37.

In the second half, Maryland piled up points while Kansas piled up fouls. KU's deficit was 78-61 before the Jayhawk engine cranked up.

"None of us gave up. We believed in ourselves," said freshman guard Aaron Miles of a second-half rally that was too little, too late.

The gap closed to 87-82 with 2:03 left on a 3-pointer by Jeff Boschee. But a couple of KU turnovers gave Maryland breathing room, and the final was Maryland 97, Kansas 88.

Maryland was added to the list of Kansas executioners in the NCAA Tournament during the Roy Williams era. They joined Illinois, Duke, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Arizona, Syracuse, Purdue, Virginia, North Carolina and Texas-El Paso.

Emil Ramirez, a steel worker union organizer from Topeka, said dwelling on such a laundry list didn't make sense.

"I get sick and tired of people saying Roy Williams has to win the big one to get respect," he said. "People in the Midwest know what kind of coach  players, too  we have. They've earned our respect."

KU medical student Lisa Beran, who was on the KU track team until 1998, said the Jayhawks came up short despite having the right prescription for success. And, she said, they could have it again next season.

"We'd love to see Drew (Gooden) come back out one more year," she said.

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