Read the original
Rekindle your memories of the title game by reading Gary Bedore's original game story.
Ten greatest games
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5 - KU cools heels
6News Championship Celebration
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Editor’s note: This is the final story in the Journal-World’s series of the top 10 games in Kansas University hoops history. Introducing No. 1:
It might have been 20 years later, and he might have been coaching instead of playing, but surely former Kansas University basketball standout Danny Manning thought back to his 1988 team’s miracle victory against Oklahoma in the national title game a time or two the day KU beat Memphis for the title in 2008, right?
“No I didn’t,” Manning said. “There were a couple of things that happened (throughout the tournament) where I kind of thought, ‘Wow, that’s weird. Something similar happened in ’88.’ But I didn’t really think about it on that day.”
Truth be told, Manning didn’t have time to reminisce. With less than 48 hours passing between the time the Jayhawks defeated North Carolina, 84-66, in the semifinals and the time they tipped off against Memphis for the title, scouting the Tigers became Manning’s main focus.
In just his second year as a full-time assistant coach, Manning was given the task of putting together the most thorough examination of Memphis he could. By all accounts, he came up with a doozy.
“I remember him just having everything down to a T,” KU center Cole Aldrich said. “He said (Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts) would go right, but when he crossed over he was going to take a step back. I mean he had everything, and that was really cool. I had seen it to an extent throughout the year, but nothing that much under a microscope as far as knowing what everybody was going to do.”
Although Aldrich credited Manning and the rest of the KU coaching staff for having the Jayhawks prepared, Manning said his preparation did not deviate from his normal routine.
“It’s the title game, and I think (the KU players) were a little bit more in tune to what was going on and probably paid a little more attention than what they normally did because this one was for all the marbles,” Manning said.
By now, the storylines from KU’s 75-68, overtime victory against Memphis that day are locked into KU basketball lore. The play known by most as “The Shot,” in which Mario Chalmers buried a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds to play to send the game to overtime, is as much a part of KU basketball legend as Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Fieldhouse and James Naismith.
Thanks in large part to his stellar senior year — and, really, his entire career — the plays that Sherron Collins made late in the game also have occupied a place of prominence in KU’s storied national championship annals.
First came the steal in the corner, which was followed by a Collins three-pointer from the same spot. Then came the game-tying assist, a pass that hit Chalmers in stride despite being delivered as Collins was tumbling to the ground. For Aldrich, that pass, and what took place in the seconds leading up to it, are the memories that jump to mind first.
“We were down three, right before Mario hit the shot,” Aldrich said. “And Sherron was standing at the other end of the court, just standing there while the clock was going off, and I was sitting there thinking, ‘What the heck are you doing? Go, run, quit standing there. Then he came down, fumbled it, somehow got it to Mario, and he hit the shot. We knew after that it was going to be very tough (for Memphis) because we had all the momentum.”
Momentum was something Manning and the ’88 Jayhawks kept on their side for most of the 83-79 victory against the Sooners. There was no signature shot in that one. Instead, Manning delivered a series of spectacular plays that spanned the entire 40 minutes. He finished the game with 31 points, 18 rebounds and five steals.
Nearly 20 years to the day later, Manning did the suit-and-tie equivalent in helping prepare the Jayhawks for the victory against Memphis.
“As a coach, you do the same things that you do for every other game, it’s just you go above and beyond,” Manning said. “You watch all the games that they’ve played. You watch teams they played that play your style, you watch teams they played that have athletes that are similar to yours. You do all that, but there still was a certain amount of paranoia that always sets in before a game, and that day was no different.”
What was different, for Manning, was the feeling he had following each championship victory.
“As a player, you’re naive, but you don’t know it at the time,” he said. “It was a little bit different for me than for Cole and Sherron (in 2008) because it was my senior year, and when that was over we had a lot of opportunities to go different places and do different things with the senior group. So we didn’t see the effect that (winning it all in ’88) really had on Lawrence like I did in ’08.”
“Being a part of that (2008) championship run was a lot of fun, but being here in the town and seeing the impact it had on all the people that supported us and all the people that wanted us to do well; it was a great accomplishment. But it was for our team and university. You look in the stands and you see all the guys who couldn’t make it to the (title) game who played for Kansas, how proud they were. That speaks volumes for the program.”