Anaheim, Calif. Jeff Graves grabbed the basketball and threw it high in the air, rejoicing after Kansas University's 78-75 Elite Eight victory over Arizona Saturday at Arrowhead Pond.
"I've seen guys do that on TV growing up, and I've always dreamed of doing that. I threw it up in joy," Graves grinned after scoring 13 points off perfect 6-of-6 shooting and grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds.
"Right now I feel I'm on Cloud Nine. If there's a Cloud 20, I'd say that," he added after helping send KU to the Final Four, where the Jayhawks will meet Marquette Saturday.
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Graves came up big on a day Arizona's 1-3-1 zone defense suffocated 6-9 Nick Collison, who managed just eight points off 2-of-7 shooting. It marked the fewest shots Collison had taken since last year's NCAA Tournament game against Holy Cross.
"They were focusing on Nick, so it gave me opportunities," Graves said. "It gave me openings and chances to score, crash the boards and score."
Graves was ecstatic coming up big in such a big game. Not so long ago, back in August, he was roundly criticized and nearly booted off the team after reporting to camp at 293 pounds.
"It's what I've dreamed of since coming here from junior college," said the former Iowa Western CC All-American. "I think this shows how much heart and dedication I do have."
Graves said he was helped by the foul trouble of Arizona inside players Rick Anderson and Channing Frye, who combined for 17 points and 10 boards, each picking up two fouls early and never appearing to be in the flow of the game.
"I knew with them in foul trouble they'd be a little soft in the post," Graves said. "I tried to take advantage of that."¢
MVP: KU's Kirk Hinrich was named most outstanding player of the West Regional. Nick Collison and Keith Langford made the all-tournament team with Arizona's Luke Walton and Jason Gardner.¢
Double 'T': KU point guard Aaron Miles (six points, seven assists, two turnovers) picked up a technical foul along with Arizona's Frye with 1011/42 minutes left, the game tied at 56.
"I wasn't trying to be Mr. Tough Guy, just help Mike," said Miles, who came to the rescue of Michael Lee, who was grappling for the ball on the floor as several Arizona players jumped on him. "There was some pushing and shoving going on, and I think the ref was tired of it."
Lee said he appreciated Miles' support.
"I was on the floor scrambling, and I felt they were pulling my arm and pushing too much," Lee said.
KU coach Roy Williams didn't like the 'T.'
"I'm really upset with Aaron," Williams said, "because it's silly to get that technical. It counts as a foul, and now you have to come sit down (with four fouls). That's something you can't have.
"You don't have to be very tough on the basketball court. You can act like you are the meanest dude in town. There's not going to be a fight because somebody will break it up in three seconds. I wasn't one of those guys willing to fight somebody on the playground when nobody is around. All that stuff is just silliness.
"I told Aaron he could go home to Portland this summer and brag about how, 'I stood up for my boys and had their back. But we went back to Lawrence and somebody else went to the Final Four.'''¢
Simien saluted: KU senior Nick Collison did a poignant salute to soph Wayne Simien, who could not attend the game. He was wrapping up a hospital stay in New York, where he had right shoulder surgery Friday.
Collison carried a sheet of paper with Simien's No. 23 as he climbed the ladder and clipped the Pond net after the game.
"We miss him," Simien's roommate, Keith Langford, said, "and we wanted him here, but he needed to get it taken care of. He'll be with us in New Orleans and that's what's important."¢
Bad call: Williams was livid in the first half when KU's Hinrich appeared to get away with a traveling call, the official closest to the play making no call, a second official stopping the game to call traveling.
Nobody can remember an official stopping play to correct a no-call.
"No," Williams said, asked if he received a suitable explanation.
Of the play, Hinrich said: "I jumped to make a pass and had nowhere to go. After I passed it, everybody seemed to think it was a travel. Their bench was all upset so the ref probably thought he had to call a travel."¢
Hinrich's hand OK: Hinrich, who hit 10 of 23 shots and scored 28 points, said he wasn't bothered by his bruised right hand.
"Not at all. It's a bruise. It's nothing," Hinrich said.¢
Ankle sprain: Keith Langford, who missed 10 of 15 shots, was hobbled a bit by his sprained right ankle. "It was sore and bothered me some. I'll just get treatment on it. It's about the worst one (sprain) I've had."¢
Stats, facts: KU is headed to the Final Four for the second straight year, the fourth time under Williams and 12th time in school history. ... It's the second time KU has gone to the Final Four in consecutive seasons (1952-53). ... Hinrich set a career high in field-goal attempts (23) and three-point field-goal attempts (17). ... KU's 13 steals tied for second most in an NCAA Tournament game. The last time KU had 13 steals was against South Carolina State in 1996. ... KU's 26 three-point tries ties for third most three-point attempts in a KU NCAA tourney game. ... Hinrich's six threes made tied the highest by an opponent against Arizona this year.