Archive for Sunday, March 16, 2008

Extra Minutes: Kansas 84, Texas 74

March 16, 2008

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Some thoughts...from Kansas City

Gary Bedore, Journal-World KU men's basketball beat writer

"It was a great day for KU, landing a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament after beating Texas in the title game. Chalmers had a career game and Rush was outstanding. It was a great first half, probably one of the best in KU history, behind the '88 title game in which it was 50-50 at intermission. Now KU could go to Nebraska and Michigan for NCAA tournament games just like in '88. Karma? Possibly. It's one and done in the Big Dance."

Tom Keegan, Journal-World sports editor

"Proving it can finish teams off in close games was what Kansas most needed to get out of the Big 12 Conference Tournament. Consider that case closed."

Ryan Greene, KUSports.com editor

"There's so many 'ifs' with this KU basketball team this season, such as Darrell Arthur's offense, the outside shooting, Sherron Collins' health and what not. Sunday, you saw what happens when all of those 'ifs' work in KU's favor. I've maintained that, when his game is on, there's no player on this team more fun to watch than Mario Chalmers, and he was flat-out incredible against Texas. You could sense talking to those guys in the locker room Saturday that no one wanted another shot at the Longhorns than Chalmers, who is probably this team's best competitor. He also had six assists, four rebounds and two steals. KU had some pressure on its back after looking so rough Friday night against Nebraska, but it got out of this weekend what it had to - two solid performances heading into the Big Dance."

Inside the numbers

30: Scoring-wise, Mario Chalmers' only great game this weekend came Sunday, as he scored 30 points on 8-of-12 three-point shooting against the Longhorns in a true shootout of a game. But don't overlook the solid stat line he compiled over the three-game Tournament, combining for 16 assists, 12 rebounds, eight assists and nine turnovers (six of those in an ugly game Friday).

27: Chalmers wasn't the only one lighting off three-point bombs on repeat Sunday, as the two teams combined to go 27-of-43 from long range (that's a whopping 63 percent). Brandon Rush was 6-of-9, Damion James 3-of-5 and D.J. Augustin 4-of-7. A.J. Abrams, Texas' top sharpshooter who stroked seven treys on Saturday, struggled after halftime, finishing 3-of-11 from deep.

19: Part of what made KU click on offense so well, outscoring Texas in the fast break points department 15-0, was the continuity between Chalmers, Rush and Sherron Collins in transition. Collins hit Rush twice for open threes on the break, and Rush returned the favor in the open floor in the second half. The three combined for 19 assists. On the flip-side from the assists, neither team gave it up much. KU had 10 turnovers and Texas just four.

2: D.J. Augustin scored just two of his team-high 20 points for the Longhorns after halftime. That is symbolic of the depth advantage KU had on Texas, especially in the backcourt. Augustin played the full 40 minutes, while A.J. Abrams played 36 and Justin Mason 38. Brandon Rush played 39 and Mario Chalmers played 35, but being able to split 47 minutes right down the middle between Sherron Collins and Russell Robinson may have been the difference in the backcourt matchup, giving KU the extra set of legs in the track meet.

36: Darrell Arthur played an almost unheard of 36 minutes Sunday and redeemed himself for two forgettable performances earlier in the weekend. The sophomore big man scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds after combining for 13 and 12 in the first two games of the tournament.

Just in case you missed it...

There certainly was no love lost between the talented backcourts of Kansas and Texas, and after each of the several big buckets in Sunday's title game, there was plenty of visible verbal trash being thrown each way (yes, it was visible). KU players agreed after the game that there was plenty of pride on the line.

Hopefully you didn't miss it...

The Midwest region of the NCAA Tournament bracket - the one in which KU is the top seed - has plenty of story lines tying back to the Jayhawks. First, there's the fact that KU could play in both Nebraska and Michigan - the same path taken in 1988. That year, KU also played Vanderbilt and Kansas State in the road to the Final Four. Both are in the Midwest region. KU could potentially face UNLV in the second round, coached by former K-State guard and head coach Lon Kruger. Most of his staff is from the state of Kansas, too. As for KSU, it plays Southern Cal. Not only does that pit Michael Beasley against O.J. Mayo, but it faces up Mayo and Bill Walker, who grew up together in Huntington, W.V., and were high school teammates for three years. Also, don't forget Gonzaga's Micah Downs in the bracket. He came in to KU in the class with Chalmers and Rush, in case you forgot.

They said it...

Darrell Arthur on the incredible first half: "That's what coach said at halftime. He said there ain't been ball played like this since '88 when Danny played. I guess it was, because we were just trading baskets back and forth. It was a high level game tonight.

Darrell Arthur on getting back at Texas: "Like I said, it was a big-time revenge game for us. We let it slip away in Austin, got kinda punked. We came out with the urgency to attack, I thought we attacked the whole game, and I thought Mario carried us the whole way."

Darrell Arthur on returning offensively: "The guards did a good job just finding me in the zone, I found Sasha a couple times in their gaps, thought we just did a good job against their zone. Like I said, Mario exploited the zone, hitting eight threes, and we just kept finding him."

Sherron Collins on the offensive flow: "I just think they played a lot of zone, and zone is something we thrive off of playing against. Teams play us in zones, we're able to penetrate against it, especially Shady and Sasha and Darnell, they made some good plays and passes to each other on or around the baseline. Even to the guards. I just think we did an overall good job running our offense today."

Sherron Collins on there being pride on the line between the guards for each team: "I think there was a lot of pride on the line. We know they've got one of the best backcourts in the country and we do as well, and we knew we had to stop their backcourt, they had to stop ours, and today we prevailed."

Brandon Rush on the go-to-guy thing again: "The go-to-guy is the person who's hot at the time, doing everything for our team. Tonight it was (Chalmers), I helped him out and I was the second option."

Brandon Rush on defensive keys to the win: "With this game, we're definitely going to have some games like this, where it's an up-and-down game, everybody's hot. But the key to the game is getting stops at the end, and against Texas we got some stops, forced them into some bad shots and that's what's going to happen in the (NCAA) Tournament sometimes."

Brandon Rush on a sense of urgency Sunday and from here on out: "We've got five seniors leaving, then some people might be leaving early, so yeah, there's a sense of urgency right now to try to get it done, try to make a run for it."

Brandon Rush on the pride between the backcourts: "Especially with us three and them three. Me, Russ and Rio, they were talking back to us every time they'd score, so it was going up-and-down, and that's what happens, somebody gets hot and you're going to talk a little smack...You can't let that become a negative, you've just got to build that into a positive. Spin that around, and make that a positive and play your heart out...Just kept shooting the ball, I was hot, Rio was hot, Rio kept shooting the ball, he was giving his little yap-yap to everybody. We spun it into a positive that way, then we got a win, too, so that helped it out."

Mario Chalmers on the pride: "Pride played a huge factor. Me, Russ, Sherron, Brandon, Shady, I mean, it was a big win for us. Shady's from Texas, he wanted to go out there and beat Texas. He wanted to go out there and beat Texas, and it's a big rivalry between us."

Bill Self on KU's Tourney draw: "We're happy that we're a one-seed. I'm not sure that it really makes that much of a difference, to be honest with you, but I'm happy we're going to Omaha. I don't know much about Portland State yet, I'll know a lot more by tonight, but they shoot a lot of threes based on the stats. Of course, also in the same bracket, because it's a two-game tournament, you have two very good teams that I haven't had a chance to see play a lot. But I've seen enough of Vegas to know how good they are, and everybody tells me Kent State is terrific. We're excited to be playing, right now I'm just worn out. I know our players are, too. I'm ready to just go home, get a good night's rest and get the batteries re-charged."

Bill Self on the year so far and what a No. 1 seed means: "The only thing it says is that we've had a great year. If we were a two-seed, our year's probably been just as good, but I think in people's minds, if you're a one-seed, they feel you're one of the best four teams in the country...The one-seed was not the goal. The goal was to position ourselves to have a favorable path. And although there's no easy path, at least we do get to stay in the Midwest, which I think is positive."

Bill Self on K-State going to Omaha, too: "I was surprised by that. I was really surprised by that, and then you have Lon Kruger there, too. I think they want all the K-State fans to cheer against us if we're fortunate enough to play (UNLV). I think the storyline on that is not Beasley vs. O.J. The storyline will be Walker vs. O.J. That'll definitely take some of the local distractions away from us, because you guys will be busy chasing all those sidebars."

Bill Self on the style of Sunday's game: "I told our guys after the game, and I can't speak for Rick, but he's a class guy and I'm sure he'd admit it was a fabulous game. It was humbling, setting on the sidelines and watching the guys play. It was humbling. There were some hard-rocking guys out there today, and that was some high-level stuff. Probably about as high-level as I've ever been a part of when you have that many great shot-makers making plays on both sides."

Bill Self on the Big 12 landing six teams in the Big Dance: "I'm really happy for our league. I was surprised, to be honest with you, but happy. Pleasantly surprised. It turned out great. I'm really disappointed for Tim, for (Illinois State coach Jankovich), because the numbers show that he was right there, real close, and maybe Georgia winning today may have knocked them out...I was thinking, from my standpoint, that the ACC would get five and not four. And from my not looking at it, if the ACC got four, how could they justify the (number) two RPI league getting six when the (number) one RPI league got four? So I was just doing it from that standpoint."

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