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Archive for Saturday, March 29, 2008

Case steps up for Jayhawks

March 29, 2008

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2008 NCAA Tournament

— Coach Bill Self has said it practically since he arrived at Kansas University in 2003. Now, it almost gets the 'yada, yada, yada' treatment.

"I've said all along he's the best shooter and all that," Self said of fifth-year senior Jeremy Case.

And in Friday's 72-57 victory over Villanova, advancing KU to its second straight spot on the Final Four's doorstep, Case got his moment in the spotlight. He hit what was a spirit-killing three fading in the right corner just before halftime, sending the Jayhawks to the locker room up 41-22 and in complete control.

"He's waited his time for five years to make that, for that one possession, because I thought that was a big-game possession," Self said. "And I was really happy for him."

Those were Case's only points on the night during an unexpected nine-minute showing on the floor, but he proved ready in the wings when KU needed him most, with Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers both in foul trouble and Sherron Collins a tad ill.

"I don't think that was the plan," Case said of his extended use off the bench. "A lot of fun. But glad we got the win.

"To be honest, I just gotta be ready mentally, right? I thought I might need to be ready, and that's what I was."

None of the Jayhawks looked fazed by any potential depth-perception issues playing in the most cavernous arena many of them ever have seen. KU was 7-of-14 from long range in the first half in building that enormous margin.

"We got to shoot earlier, practice, and I got a good feel for it," Case said. "I kinda like the stadium. It's a good shooting gym, in my opinion."

Of course, this late in the stages of a 34-3 season, Case doesn't expect his showing Friday to slip him into the regular rotation, starting Sunday in the Elite Eight against Davidson. But he does have something to bring to the table, being the lone Jayhawk who has been to the Elite Eight not once but twice, doing so in 2004 along with in 2007.

"The thing is, we've gotta finish games," the coach-in-training said in perfect coach-speak. "If you go back, it was all one possession. And that's the mind-set we've gotta have is that every possession counts. I'm gonna be sure to install that in these guys' minds."

To show how much his watching of Self has rubbed off, he assessed Davidson and star Stephen Curry by using almost the same words Self did moments later on the other end of the locker room. Some teammates already have started dubbing him 'Coach Case'.

"We watched the first half. They run a lot of great stuff. They've got one really good player who's on a hot streak," he said of Curry, who has scored 103 points in three tournament games this year. "We can't really get caught by surprise anymore because of what he's been doing."

¢ Case keeping an eye on Padgett: Case watched Louisville advance to the Elite Eight with a victory over Tennessee Thursday night, and that meant a second trip to the Regional final for former KU teammate David Padgett, now a fifth-year senior for the Cardinals. The two were members of the 2003-04 KU freshman class.

Padgett faces North Carolina and Roy Williams today in Charlotte, N.C. Williams, of course, was the coach who originally recruited both Case and Padgett to Lawrence.

"I don't think that's going through his head at all. He's gonna be focused on the game," Case said. "It's been so long since then.

"It's fun to see him play. David was a good friend of mine. I try to keep in touch, but we really haven't. Kinda fizzled out. But I'm happy for him. I really am."

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