SAN ANTONIO — Kansas prevailed in the first NCAA championship game to go to overtime since 1997 by closing on a 24-8 run from regulation through the extra session to beat Memphis 75-68.
The Jayhawks appeared done when the Tigers grabbed a 60-51 lead after Robert Dozier hit two free throws. The clock dwindled under two minutes to play before KU began to cut away at the lead with a Darrell Arthur jumper.
Then came one of the biggest plays of the game. After Kansas called a 30-second timeout, Memphis turned the ball over on the subsequent inbounds play after the Arthur jumper. Sherron Collins made a steal in the right corner and immediately knocked down a 3-pointer, and faster than you could say "Rock Chalk," the deficit was a much more manageable 60-56.
WHY KANSAS WON
The Jayhawks ultimately prevailed for the following key reasons:
1. Big plays at the end of regulation. Collins' steal cannot be underestimated. Without it, Kansas coach Bill Self probably would have elected not to foul right away since the Memphis lead was seven and there still was 1:54 to play. If that scenario had played out and the Tigers had gone deep in the shot clock and gotten points, the game probably would have been over. There also was Arthur's jumper with 1:01 left that cut the lead to 62-60, setting up Mario Chalmers' miraculous 3-pointer to tie the game with 2.1 seconds to go. It was a big-time shot by Chalmers, who – to his credit – took it in rhythm and looked balanced as he went up. "It was an open look," Chalmers said. "It was just a lucky shot. I was trying to relocate while Sherron had the dribble, and maybe they got confused a little on defense and I got an open look." Self called it "probably the biggest shot in Kansas history. … It's just remarkable he could have that much poise when the pressure is on like that."
2. Transition defense. The Jayhawks gave up only four fast-break points. Memphis got out in transition a few more times in the second half than it was able to in the first, but for the most part, KU's guards were able to get back and prevent easy runouts.
3. Rebounding. Kansas ripped Memphis on the boards, 39-28. The Jayhawks dominated in the first half, grabbing 19 boards to the Tigers' 11, and also managed to win the battle on the glass in the second half. KU held Joey Dorsey to two rebounds, which tied his season-low. "When the shots went up, we just tried to block him out," Jayhawks forward Darnell Jackson said. "He was getting frustrated. We put a body on him, and he kept crying to the ref." Dorsey had 15 rebounds in the semifinals against UCLA.
4. The bigs played big. Arthur was sensational. He shot 69.2 percent (9-for-13) and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, just his fifth double-double of the season. He played with confidence and wanted the ball in crunch time. Jackson held up his end, too, going for eight points and eight rebounds.
5. Free-throw shooting. The Jayhawks did not miss from the line in the second half and overtime, hitting all 10 of their attempts. If the Tigers had shot like that, KU wouldn't have cut down the nets.
WHY MEMPHIS LOST
The Tigers ultimately lost for the following key reasons:
1. Free-throw shooting. For as much as coach John Calipari said his players would make them when they counted – and had been proved right through five games in the tournament – the roof caved in in the second half Monday night. The Tigers shot 50 percent (7-for-14) in the final 20 minutes. Chris Douglas-Roberts missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:15 left and Memphis clinging to a 62-58 lead. He missed two with 16 seconds to play and the lead at 62-60. If he hit them as he did against UCLA (9-for-11), he could have helped the Tigers to their first national title.
2. Key turnovers. Throwing away an inbounds pass after a timeout in the final two minutes is an egregious error. Yes, Collins made a good play, but it was an unforced error at a critical time. "We don't throw the one ball in the corner away, they make a '3' – we don't do that, we win the game," Calipari said.
3. Inability to solve the box-and-one. Kansas went to a box-and-one for a handful of possessions on Douglas-Roberts in the second half, and it effectively took him out of Memphis' offense. He had 13 points in the first half on 5-for-8 shooting, but he had only four points in the second half. He scored five points in overtime, but they all came with Memphis trailing by six points.