Sorrentino: Deja vu avoided in Texas

With 2:12 left in regulation of Kansas’ 75-68 overtime triumph against Memphis on Monday, similarities to the 2003 national championship against Syracuse were eerily present.

In both games, Kansas found itself trying to mount a late comeback. In 2003, KU trailed by 12 with five minutes left; the Jayhawks trailed by nine with 2:12 remaining Monday.

In both games, Kansas ran into freshman sensations who played major roles in building leads on the Jayhawks. In 2003, Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists. On Monday, Derrick Rose scored 18 points, grabbed six boards and dished out eight assists for the Tigers.

Kansas wouldn’t go down easily in either title game. In fact, both games, KU cut the lead to three and had the ball on the final possession with the chance for overtime.

That’s where the similarities stop, though.

It’s the differences – aside from the obvious end result – from the two years that benefited the Jayhawks the most on Monday.

Those differences: free-throw shooting, depth and the final possession.

For instance, Kansas misfired on 18 of its 30 free throw attempts in 2003. That doesn’t win championships. The Jayhawks converted 14 of 15 free throws on Monday. That figure (93.3 percent) is instrumental in winning championships.

Furthermore, KU had only one key bench player who saw regular minutes off the bench in the 2003 title game: Michael Lee. On Monday, Kansas brought Sherron Collins (34 minutes) and Sasha Kaun (21 minutes) off the bench for mega minutes.

Without Collins, there’s no overtime Monday. With just under 2:00 remaining, the sophomore guard grabbed a critical steal and saved it inbounds to KU hero-of-the-new-millennium Mario Chalmers. Chalmers dished to Robinson, who kicked it back out to Collins. The Chicago native drained a mammoth three-pointer from the right corner to cut the Memphis lead to four with 1:45 to play.

Finally, the most critical difference: the final possession.

In 2003, Kirk Hinrich found Lee open in the left corner for a potentially game-tying three-pointer as time wound down. Hakim Warrick blocked the shot and essentially ended the game.

In 2008, KU was also down three on the final possession. Tragedy in 2003 warped into triumph in 2008 when Chalmers hit the biggest shot in KU history.

Rose and Robert Dozier were doing their best Warrick imitations, but Chalmers drained the contested three.

KU then dominated overtime, which led to roughly 40,000 Jayhawk fans parading on Massachusetts street. They deserved it. Before 2:12 remained in regulation, it was almost like a bad dream.