New Orleans His jersey covering his head, Michael Lee slumped while seated in his Kansas basketball locker stall 20 minutes after the Jayhawks' 81-78 NCAA title loss to Syracuse Monday night at the Superdome.
Lee, who had a possible game-tying three-pointer from the corner rejected with about three seconds left, was sad for himself, his coach -- who was seeking his first title -- and seniors Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison, among others.
"We tried," Lee said. "We didn't come out with any defensive intensity at the start, which was disappointing, but by the time it was over, we'd left it all out there. Syracuse deserves credit, but at the same time, we feel we could have won that game."
Lee, who scored five points on 2-of-8 shooting, wasn't the only demoralized Jayhawk after the defeat.
Sophomore Keith Langford, who scored 19 points off 7-of-9 shooting but played just 23 minutes because of foul problems, was equally bummed.
"I can't imagine how they (Hinrich and Collison) feel," Langford said. "I'm sure they feel terrible. We wanted to avenge what happened last year at the Final Four (losing in semifinals).
"I feel terrible like they do. We all do. We feel we could have played better. I think we had the will to win, but you have to play better than the other team, and Syracuse was the better team tonight."
Langford was in the dumps for another reason -- he conceded after the game his future at Kansas was cloudy. If coach Roy Williams leaves for North Carolina, there's a chance Langford also will bolt.
"The 2003 season is over, let's move on," Langford said. "People have got decisions to make in the offseason. You know, Kansas ain't Kansas if Roy Williams ain't here. I'm not saying coach is thinking about leaving now, but if he is, then it doesn't look good for me, either."
That's all Langford said about the subject, but it also is known several Jayhawks will be thinking about moving on if their coach does.
As far as the last game of his sophomore season, Langford said he gave his all trying to guard 6-8 freshman phenom Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 20 points; 13 in the first half.
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"I just tried to be aggressive," Langford said. "I messed myself up by getting some cheap fouls."
Langford picked up his fourth foul with 18:10 left and KU down, 55-44. He sat out until 8:48 remained, with KU down, 70-60, fouling out with 5:36 to play and Syracuse leading, 72-64.¢
Ankle sprain: Hinrich sprained his left ankle with 12:33 left, KU down by eight.
"It was bothering me a little bit," said Hinrich, who missed two late threes that could have forced overtime, the last more of a desperation try at the buzzer. "But you know, I was just playing on adrenaline. It's a minor sprain, minor pain. I've sprained it so much it doesn't take much to sprain it again."¢
Collison a warrior: Williams lauded the play of Collison, who made the all-Final Four team with Langford and Hinrich, plus Syracuse's Gerry McNamara and Carmelo Anthony (MVP).
"I think the dominating thoughts that everybody will have will be Syracuse's shooting the first half (10 of 13 threes in building 53-42 lead) and our inability to make free throws," Williams said, "yet, folks, that guy sitting next to me -- Nick Collison -- 19 points, 21 rebounds, he knew he wasn't shooting the ball well, wasn't getting it in the hole. He missed a layup a couple of times. You're talking about a fricking warrior. My God, he's a warrior."¢
Nice guys: Williams and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had a long chat while shaking hands after the game.
"I told him and I meant it as much as anything I've ever meant in my life and I don't make a habit of lying, I was very happy for him," Williams said. "I hurt. I hurt for my team, but was really happy for him. I don't think Jimmy has gotten the credit. In the old days they called him a whiner. I think his facial expressions are much better now than they used to be. They don't say that too much anymore. He's been in three championship games. I'm happy for him."¢
Stats, facts: Syracuse beat its fourth Big 12 Conference team in the tourney. Syracuse beat Texas in the Final Four, Oklahoma State in the second round and Oklahoma in the regional final. ... Syracuse evened the all-time series, 2-2. ... The title game was a rematch of a second-round NCAA Tournament game in 2001, won by KU, 87-58. ... The last three NCAA title games had been decided by 10 or more points. The previous three final games in New Orleans had been decided by an average of 2.7 points. ... Monday's final matched the two winningest active coaches (by win percentage) in Div. I. Roy Williams entered the game with an .807 mark; Jim Boeheim .743. Williams' win percentage ranks third all-time. ... Boeheim entered with 37 NCAA Tournament wins and Williams 34. That made them the two winningest coaches in NCAA history who had not yet won a title. Boeheim earned his first crown Monday night. ... KU was denied its third national title in history, the Jayhawks also losing in the title game in 1940, '53, '57 and '91 and winning in '52 and '88. ... Syracuse played in the title game for the third time, all under Boeheim. Syracuse lost 74-73 to Indiana in 1987 and 76-67 to Kentucky in 1996. .... Big East teams are 4-5 in national-title games, 3-4 against non-Big East teams. The Big East titles include Georgetown in '84, Villanova in '85 and UConn in '99. .... KU had its 12-game win streak against lower-seeded NCAA tourney teams snapped. KU's last loss had been in the second round of the 1998 tourney when No. 8 Rhode Island beat No. 1 KU in Oklahoma City. KU entered this tourney a No. 2 seed; Syracuse a No. 3.