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Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2013

Opinion: KU’s stunning loss comes down to karma

With only a few second on the clock and down by two points Elijah Johnson passes out to Naadir Tharpe for a last three-point attempt that missed leaving the Jayhawks with a 87-85 loss to the University of Michigan, Friday, March 29, 2013, at Cowboys Stadium, in Arlington, TX.

With only a few second on the clock and down by two points Elijah Johnson passes out to Naadir Tharpe for a last three-point attempt that missed leaving the Jayhawks with a 87-85 loss to the University of Michigan, Friday, March 29, 2013, at Cowboys Stadium, in Arlington, TX.

March 30, 2013

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Box score

KU-Michigan

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after loss to Michigan

Kansas coach Bill Self talks after his team's 87-85 overtime loss to Michigan on March 29, 2013.

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Travis Releford, Jeff Withey

Kansas seniors Travis Releford and Jeff Withey talk briefly on the podium following the Jayhawks' 87-85 overtime loss to Michigan on March 29, 2013.

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Michigan coach John Beilein, Trey Burke, Mitch McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Michigan coach John Beilein and playersTrey Burke, Mitch McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr. talk to reporters following the Wolverines' 87-85 overtime victory over Kansas on March 29, 2013.

This was the 2008 national-title game all over again, only this time it’s Kansas licking wounds that will re-open every time somebody asks the obvious question: How did it happen?

How did Kansas lose a game it had locked up? How did it not secure a victory that would have had the Jayhawks playing Florida on Sunday with the winner advancing to the Final Four?

How did Kansas, which held a 10-point lead with 2:22 left in regulation when Elijah Johnson drove into a lane with four defenders and 30 seconds left on the shot clock, turned around and threw an errant pass toward the perimeter that was run down at the other end for an uncontested Glenn Robinson dunk, lose to Michigan, 87-85, in overtime?

“We’re right there where we wanted the game, and of course the last three minutes we didn’t do a lot of things right, which will be something we’ll look back on and regret for a long, long time,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But props to Michigan for making all the plays late.”

Said Travis Releford: “We had a chance to seal the game, but we made some bone-headed plays late.”

It was nice of Releford to say, “we.” That’s the way teammates talk. They don’t point fingers and this was a tight-knit group that did none of that. Releford played well in his final game as a Jayhawk, totaling 16 points, five rebounds and six assists with just one turnover in 42 minutes. So did Perry Ellis, who made the most of 15 minutes and totaled eight points, five boards, three assists and a great hustle play that kept the ball from going out of bounds. Same for Kevin Young (12 points, seven boards, defensive lapses late) and Jeff Withey (12 points, eight boards, five blocks). Ben McLemore caught fire and was largely responsible for giving Kansas a double-digit lead, until he deferred late to the veterans, fell into foul trouble and lost his aggressiveness. He led Kansas with 20 points, but attempted one shot in the game’s final 16 minutes. Even fellow red-shirt freshman Jamari Traylor made the most of his five minutes with an energetic performance that yielded two points, two blocked shots and an assist. Naadir Tharpe steered Kansas to a six-point halftime lead as Johnson was limited to three first-half minutes.

As Self said, Michigan made all the plays late, and it was not unlike the way Kansas made all the plays late against Memphis in storming back from a nine-point deficit to win the national title five years ago. But Kansas helped Michigan more than Memphis helped Kansas.

The anatomy of the KU breakdown:

Robinson’s dunk, courtesy of Johnson, cut the lead to eight points with 2:18 left. Johnson failed to dribble the ball past the mid-court line in the allotted 10 seconds, giving the ball back to Michigan. It was Johnson’s third turnover in four possessions. Burke set up McGary for an easy bucket, trimming the lead to six points with 1:54 left. Releford’s two free throws pumped it back to eight with 1:22 remaining.

Burke — notice how frequently his and Johnson’s names surface in the re-living of a Michigan dream and KU nightmare — buried a three-pointer to cut it to a five with 1:15 left. Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a three with 35 seconds left the basketball squirted loose and was there to be had, the type play Self’s teams usually feast on.

“All we had to do was fall on the ball,” Self said. “The possession arrow was ours. We just didn’t do it. Seasons usually come down, if you’ve got a pretty good team, to one possession, at least it has with us, most every year. This wasn’t one possession. This was about five possessions.”

Robinson picked the ball up and scored. Now the lead was three. Johnson’s two free throws with 21 seconds left pumped the lead back to five. Burke’s layup with 14 seconds made it a three-point game again. Burke fouled Johnson with 12 seconds left and Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Self generally believes in fouling with a three-point lead once the clock shrinks to six seconds. Nobody was close enough to foul Burke, freed by screens, when he launched a 27-footer as Young ran toward him but was late in doing so. Burke nailed it. Of course he did.

Kansas had 4.3 seconds to get off a good shot and did, but Tharpe’s three-pointer kissed off the front of the rim.

Technically, Michigan won the game in overtime, but in reality, Kansas and Michigan combined to decide it at the end of regulation.

A second overtime loomed as a possibility with the ball in the hands of Johnson, whose extra period was a mixed bag that featured a pass thrown right to Michigan and a clutch three-pointer. He looked to be on his way to a drive that would finish with a shot. Instead he fired to the perimeter, where Tharpe forced a running three-pointer.

“I thought he could get to the rim,” Self said. “ ... He got his shoulders past him. But for whatever reason, he veered behind the backboard and really didn’t give himself a shot.”

Maybe bad karma springing from Johnson’s flagrant foul, more than anything, undermined what looked like a sure ticket to an Elite Eight showdown with Florida.

“I didn’t see it,” Self said, “but obviously the official said he did it, so he did it. The film doesn’t lie. That’s not how we play. And that was not smart at all. And then he gets a bad second foul on a charge, when all he had to do was stop and shoot it. The third foul he plays for 15 seconds and gets that one.”

Johnson said the play was “unintentional” and the referees agreed.

Even with their senior point guard limited to three first-half minutes, Kansas had the game in the bag. So how did they lose it? Karma. Had to be karma.

Comments

Abrabant 1 year, 8 months ago

I've been a fan of KU basketball since I was eight and Danny Manning lead our team to the national title. My mom took me up on campus that night and I'll never forget it. When Roy came to town, he ended up going to our church. I lived in Chapel Hill for two years (90-92) and then we moved back to the KC. I've watch a lot of Kansas teams over the years and a lot of KU players, both good and bad, but mostly good. With all that being said, I'm quite glad to see Elijah Johnson graduate. He makes horrible decisions. He does not play the kinda basketball we pride ourselves on. I don't know why Bill Self failed to impress this on him.

RibMan 1 year, 8 months ago

Karma? How about letting Tharpe play the point? I may never say this again: Coach Self made poor decisions in putting the right players in the right positions. EJ is the best/worst example.

It was unfair to have EJ play the point this year. It held back the team and made him an easy target for criticism. He isn't cut out for the position and Tharpe, while not perfect, was the better choice. That has been clear for some time now.

Loyalty is a wonderful trait but even that has its limits.

5thStPhoggers 1 year, 8 months ago

This one will hurt for a while. With all that being said, it's best to keep our opinions to ourselves. We all saw the game. The less said the better.

MarcoPogo 1 year, 8 months ago

That was very nice of you to share your opinion with us.

Eddie Brothers 1 year, 8 months ago

I agree with U both.I am proudly from Lawrence,my father taught at K U,I was a coke boy at Allen Field House in 4th grade even saw the Globetrotters here.I love this town,love K U,Bill Self and especially Our Hawks,but in all my years (51) I have NEVER seen a poorer example of sportsmanship and am ashamed to have had Johnson on Our team! I feel so bad for the rest of the team,wish all of them the best and as a true fan apologize to every basketball fan everywhere for last nights game and pray this doe's not reflect too poorly on our Classy program for too long?!

Abrabant 1 year, 8 months ago

I totally agree. Elijah Johnson should apologize to his teammates and fans for his poor sportsmanship and performance this season.

JerseyJim 1 year, 8 months ago

Just my opinion but Elijah wanted out. Agree with a criticism of a favorite coach. Players can express themselves in many ways and Johnson was saying "this is too much for me". 1. Flagrant 2 in front of hordes of cameras and 40,000 people (I want out of here). 2. Next possession, mindless charge (Bench for me, I'm temporarily out of here) 3. 15 seconds after getting back in (3rd foul, please get me out of here) 4. Up 12 anyway? (OK, I'll try.) 5. Up 10, with ball and 1:20 left, charge into a lane full of players with 30 seconds on the shot clock and turn it over. (Is that enough to get me out of here?) Hate to say this but Bill has got to see a kid choking his way to the finish and somehow protect him. Even if he leaves Johnson in, get him off the ball, so all he has to do is turn and shoot.
And foul when up 3 with less than 10 secs to go.
Love coach, but there's room for some criticism.

Abrabant 1 year, 8 months ago

I agree that Self should take some responsibility for Johnson's performance. He had 4 years to work with this kid. 4 years to teach him that you don't sack tap the other team.

Abrabant 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm not saying he needs to apologize for the loss as a whole, but his conduct during the game and this season. He has made several poor decisions that reflect poorly on The University of Kansas and their proud basketball tradition. I say that I hate Duke, but I'd never sack tap one of their players.

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