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Archive for Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tigers lament loss

I thought we were national champs’

April 8, 2008

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2008 NCAA Tournament

2008 NCAA Tournament

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NCAA Championship Game

— With 10.8 seconds left in regulation on Monday, Memphis basketball coach John Calipari told his team to foul when Kansas University inbounded the ball down three.

But KU's Sherron Collins slipped away and dished the ball to Mario Chalmers, who drilled the game-trying three-point shot with 2.1 seconds left. Kansas went on to win, 75-68 in overtime, to claim the 2008 NCAA championship.

"He got away from our man," Calipari said of Collins.

It turned out to be a lesser-known yet huge turning point in Monday's thrilling game. Chalmers' ensuing three-pointer completed a comeback after Memphis led by as many as nine with 2:12 to play.

"I thought we were national champs," Calipari said. "That's the great thing about college basketball and sports. Within 30 seconds, they make a play, and it's OT, and it's on again."

Chalmers' heroics had a lot to do with it, but Memphis ultimately will blame itself for allowing the comeback to take place. All along, the Tigers were told that their shaky free-throw shooting could doom them. All along, Calipari was adamant that it wouldn't.

But it did. Chris Douglas-Roberts missed two charities with 16.8 seconds left, and Derrick Rose missed one with 10.8 remaining. The door was cracked, and the Jayhawks dropped the shoulder and busted it down.

"It came back and bit us," said Douglas-Roberts, who led Memphis with 22 points. "We missed 'em. We missed 'em at a crucial time."

It was especially cruel, because it was all set up for Memphis to win its first championship in school history. Destiny seemed on the Tigers' side when Rose nailed a bank-shot with 4:14 left to put Memphis up 56-49. The Tigers (38-2) eventually stretched the lead to 60-51 after two Robert Dozier free throws with 2:12 to go.

Douglas-Roberts hit two free throws with 1:39 left to put Memphis up 62-56, but the knees started wobbling after that. Kansas, as a championship team would, used the Tigers' weakness against them and completed a furious comeback.

Calipari remained stubborn about the importance of free-throw shooting when speaking to the media afterward. But he did realize the magnitude of what was lost once the confetti stopped dropping to the Alamodome court.

"I'm still kind of numb, to be honest with you," Calipari said. "It will probably hit me like a ton of bricks tomorrow. We had it in our grasp."

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