Archive for Sunday, March 4, 2007

Durant had to ‘suck it up’

March 4, 2007


Kevin Durant returned from the locker room in the second half with a slight limp - and received a standing ovation in Allen Fieldhouse.

It's a rare sight at a hostile venue that once was home to several legendary players. But Texas' phenomenal freshman is as rare a player as college basketball has seen in some time - poised, deadly, versatile and oozing with talent.

KU fans weren't standing and cheering. College basketball fans were.

Durant returned after aggravating an ankle injury and finished with 32 points and nine rebounds. KU won the game, 90-86, but it wasn't because of the 6-foot-9 star, who had 25 points in an amazing first half.

"He turned it (Friday) in practice," Texas coach Rick Barnes said of Durant's left ankle. "He felt like he could play, and we put him back in there because we felt like if he sat, it would get tight on him. Obviously, he was limping a little bit. He couldn't move the way he normally does."

Durant tweaked the injury and went to the locker room with 11:21 left after missing a pull-up jumper in the lane. Even before the setback, though, Durant had cooled off.

That - coupled with UT's inability to rebound and take care of the ball, according to Barnes - allowed Kansas to take back the game.

"I just wanted to suck it up and play for my team," said Durant, who averages 25.1 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. "They picked me up when I was out, so I just wanted to suck it up for them. I just took the pain."

Audio Clips
2006-07 March 3 KU-Texas Hoops

Durant nailed a late three to help give Texas a chance, but it was his first-half dominance that will stick with the 16,300 in attendance for a long time.

Durant made 11 of 14 first-half shots, hit all five of his three-point attempts (often with a hand in his face) and passed the ball with precision whenever the Jayhawks put a double-team on him.

Durant sometimes posted up 18 feet from the basket. Anything to get the ball.

"He's done a lot of good things all year," Barnes said. "What makes (Saturday's performance) impressive was what's at stake. It shows you what he's about."

Kansas officials brought a box of championship T-shirts and a ladder for net-cutting into the northwest tunnel with 28 seconds left and KU up, 88-80.

What followed had to have made them nervous. Durant nailed a three. Then A.J. Abrams followed with a trey of his own with 23 seconds left to make it 88-86.

Then, down 89-86 with 15 ticks remaining, Justin Mason missed a three, but D.J. Augustin came up with the rebound. Augustin's three was blocked by Julian Wright, ending a great chance for Texas to steal the game in stunning fashion.

Texas (22-8 overall, 12-4 Big 12) was poised to clinch a share of the Big 12 title with a victory Saturday, but it went away with KU's overpowering second half.

"We were right there, up 12 at halftime," Durant said. "But 20 minutes of basketball can change the whole season."


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