Archive for Sunday, March 16, 2003

Tigers get their revenge - Missouri 68, Kansas 63

Jayhawks fuming after loss

March 16, 2003


— Nobody will be talking about the Big 12 Conference basketball tournament come 5 p.m. today, when the NCAA Tournament pairings are announced on CBS.

You can bet that until then, Kansas University's 68-63 semifinal loss to rival Missouri Saturday at American Airlines Center will be discussed and even cussed by KU coach Roy Williams and his players.

"We're very disappointed," Williams fumed after his Jayhawks squandered an 11-point second-half lead. "We're going to be disappointed. I'm going to be pissed off. If it bothers you with that language, I apologize.

"My wife doesn't like me saying that, but I could say a heck of a lot worse."

If you get the feeling KU's 15th-year coach was steamed at the Jayhawks' play Saturday, you're right.

"We've got to realize you can't just sashay out there," Williams said after MU snapped KU's five-game winning streak versus the Tigers. "For 15 years we've made our living on playing very aggressively, with complete effort and playing together. Today we had a lot of breakdowns."

The biggest breakdowns came after senior guard Kirk Hinrich was whistled for his fourth foul with 15:03 left. KU led at the time, 46-36.

The first-team All-Big 12 pick's departure ignited the Tigers.

"You could tell. Their eyes lit up," said KU sophomore guard Michael Lee, who had four turnovers, all in the second half.

Hinrich -- he had an off day with 12 points off 5-of-12 shooting -- returned with 8:29 to play and KU up, 52-51.

"It was really tough sitting out," Hinrich said. "It was tough watching. We were up 10 or 11, and then we started struggling a bit."

KU struggled big-time as Rickey Paulding scored five of his game-high 21 points, and Arthur Johnson (12 points, seven boards) and Travon Bryant (18 points, seven boards) scored three each in a 15-6 MU run with Hinrich on the pine.

"I think we probably lose confidence without him out there," said KU forward Nick Collison, who scored 17 points off 5-of-12 shooting with 10 boards. "When he is out there we are more in control. But we still have other guys capable of playing."

The biggest problem, Collison and Hinrich both said, was KU didn't come to play Saturday after slugging Iowa State in Friday's quarterfinals, 89-74.

"Throughout the year we've found out when we don't maintain urgency, we lose," Collison said. "It's another lesson (that) we've got to bring it every possession."

"The intensity was not there and our decisions were not good," Hinrich said.

KU hit just 35 percent of its shots to MU's 44.6 percent. The Jayhawks (25-7) missed their final five shots and did not score in the final 3:17.

A crucial turnover came with 38 seconds left with MU leading, 65-63. Keith Langford threw a bullet pass from the top of the key to Lee in the corner. The high pass sailed through Lee's hands and out of bounds.

KU pressed MU on the ensuing possession and Lee fouled Ricky Clemons, who hit two free throws at :26 to give MU an insurmountable 67-63 lead.

"The pass was kind of high," Lee said, "but I could have caught the ball. I don't think I was ready to catch it. I thought he'd pass to Kirk on the wing."

Langford, who scored 15 points off 5-of-13 shooting, took the blame.

"I just threw it too hard," he said.

Minutes earlier, he hit two potentially big shots -- one off a drive and one off a high-arching 15-footer that gave KU a 59-56 lead at 4:59.

At that point, things still looked good for KU considering Hinrich was back on the court.

Nobody, however, realized KU would go the final three-plus minutes without a point.

"Again, the want-to appeared to be in their corner," Williams said of the Tigers (21-9). "The sharpness was more in their corner."

It was suggested MU had the mental edge in trying to avoid losing to the Jayhawks three times in one season for the first time since 1977-78.

"All that stuff about beating people three times ... I think you can do that if you play those three days," Williams said. "We had three plays in a row (where) guys were supposed to be on the backboard, and they were outside the three-point line watching. For me to have to stand up and scream, 'Jeff (Graves), get to the board. Jeff, get to the board.' ... You can't play like that."

KU had some incentive of its own. Seniors Hinrich and Collison wanted to win their first-ever Big 12 tournament titles.

"Obviously, we've never been able to win the Big 12 title since I've been here. We wanted to be able to do that," said Hinrich, who has been part of the past two regular-season crowns. "We didn't play well. It's tough."

Now it's up to the NCAA at 5 p.m. today to award KU a No. 1 or 2 seed.

"We have a few days to find out where we're headed, have a few days to shake this off," Hinrich said. "Whatever seed or wherever we go, we've got to get ready."

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