Memphis was trying to foul in final seconds
SAN ANTONIO — There isn’t a college basketball fan who hasn’t had the argument. Both sides are adamant on what was never an issue until the 1986-87 season, when that line was drawn on the court 19 feet, 9 inches from the basket.
When you are leading by three points and the clock is winding down, do you foul a player before he can get off a 3-point attempt and instead send him to the free-throw line?
The question was there Monday night, only this time the national championship was on the line.
Memphis had a nine-point lead with 2:12 to play. Poor free-throw shooting and a costly turnover allowed Kansas to get within 63-60 with 10 seconds to play.
So, do you foul somebody before a possible tying shot can be taken?
There is the possibility the player you foul gets off a quick 3-point attempt, it goes in and you are suddenly a free throw from being behind. An official could decide the foul was too hard, call it intentional and after the free throws, the team would get the ball back, now with a chance to go ahead.
Memphis coach John Calipari made his decision in front of 43,257 fans in the Alamodome and millions watching on television: foul before the shot.
But it didn’t happen.
Kansas’ Sherron Collins got past midcourt and dribbled toward the right side as Memphis players chased him, but he got the ball away to Mario Chalmers, the Jayhawks’ best 3-point shooter at 47 percent, and hit the 3 to tie the game.
Kansas scored the first six points of overtime on the way to a 75-68 victory Monday night that gave the Jayhawks their third national championship, and first since 1988.
Calipari decided as freshman Derrick Rose went to the foul line with 10 seconds left and Memphis leading 62-60.
"If we made both, we were forming a wall," Calipari said. "If he made one, we were fouling."
Rose made the second free throw and, even though Calipari had made up his mind, the debate was already going on around the country.
"Sherron Collins got away," Calipari said. "We were going to foul at halfcourt. He got away from our man. And then when our man did foul him and pushed him to the floor, probably didn’t foul him hard enough because of the space.
"We’re going to foul with 10 seconds to go and they run from us. We push the kid to the floor, but we don’t foul him hard enough and the kid makes a shot over our arm. And that’s why we lose. That’s bottom line what happened."
Kansas not heartbroken
Joe Posnanski has been covering Kansas sports for many years in his role as a columnist for the Kansas City Star. Part of his column today:
"Heartbreak has followed this Kansas program like a stray dog. There was the three-overtime loss in ’57 with Wilt Chamberlain at the center. There was the 1997 loss to Arizona when Kansas had, perhaps, the best team in its history. There was the championship-game loss to Syracuse when Nick Collison, as solid a player as the Jayhawks have ever had, could not make a free throw.
"And now there was this team, this gifted, intense and tough team that Bill Self had put together. These Jayhawks could play fast with North Carolina, and they could play slow with Davidson. They could beat you with speed, with defense, with athletic ability, with precision passing, with high-flying dunks.
"For most of this game, the Jayhawks had done what many thought they could not do — they played Memphis’ talent even, they had matched all of Memphis’ athletic ability, they had run the floor with Memphis, they had flown above the rim with Memphis.
"And now, Chalmers shot the ball over two outstretched hands, and the ball was in the air, the shot was heading for the basket, and that feeling was all over the Alamodome. It’s going in.
"The basketball swished through.
"It is now the greatest shot in Kansas basketball history. That’s all. After it went through, Kansas could not lose. There was no way. Memphis’ great players had been knocked out by the shot. The Jayhawks rolled in the overtime, winning 75-68. Confetti fell from the ceiling. There were tears. Hugs. More tears.
"It had been a long time at Kansas. It had been a long time since there had been a champion in the Heartland. ‘This is for you,’ Kansas coach Bill Self said to everyone."
Going for the weak spot
From today’s column by Gil Lebreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
"You know the drill. The aesthetics of the fading seconds of a basketball game are probably best left to another day, another sports column. But I hate it.
"I hate that the end of so many great games dissolve into a maddening battle of nerves, time-outs and free throws. Got an hour? That’s how long the final two minutes of a close college basketball game can seem to take.
"Rather than fault Kansas coach Bill Self, however, the proper thing would be to commend him. You go for the opponent’s weakness. You take him out at the knees.
"None of the 65 teams in the NCAA bracket entered the tournament with a worst free-throw shooting percentage than Memphis’ 59.2."