SAN ANTONIO -- Trailing 60-51 with 2:12 left in regulation, the University of Kansas men's basketball team mounted a comeback that will go down as one of the most memorable in KU history to win the 2008 NCAA Division I National Championship Monday in the Alamodome. In overtime, Kansas defeated Memphis 75-68 for its fifth national title in school history.
"Our fans are terrific," head coach Bill Self said on the floor after the game. "They've been so loyal and I'd really like to thank all the past players and all the past coaches which put this program where it is and certainly made my job a lot better."
After Final Four MVP Mario Chalmers hit a game-tying three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime, the Jayhawks owned the extra period.
"We made so many plays down the stretch and got the ball into our most clutch player's hands, and he delivered," Self about Chalmers' heroics.
Overtime began with Sherron Collins stealing the ball and pitching ahead to Brandon Rush for a lay-in. Darrell Arthur slammed a lob from Chalmers and Darnell Jackson hit a bucket, and Memphis was never able to catch up.
Despite the historic finish, Kansas struggled in the early going, and ultimately had three unforced turnovers in the first three minutes and 10 seconds. But, despite the early trouble handling the ball, KU trailed only 9-5 at the first commercial break. The timeout served the Jayhawks well as KU immediately got a dunk from Sasha Kaun and an easy lay-in from Arthur to knot the score at nine-apiece.
Over the course of the next four minutes the two teams traded punch-for-punch as Kansas got buckets from Collins and Jackson, while Chris Douglas-Roberts did all the damage for the Tigers. At the second media timeout, the score was tied 13-all.
Once again after the timeout, Kansas got two quick buckets - one on a slash by Rush and the next on a three from Chalmers. With 8:26 on the clock, Kansas reached its biggest lead of the half with the score 22-15.
But the lead did not last as Memphis went on an 11-2 tear over the next two minutes to take a 26-24 advantage with 6:23 left in the period. Kansas answered with a driving layup from Collins and a vicious dunk by Kaun and, after another bucket from Douglas-Roberts, ended the half with a three-point play from Rush and a bucket from Arthur to lead 33-28 at intermission.
Memphis was the aggressor as the second half opened with the Tigers quickly outscoring the Jayhawks 8-2 to retake the lead. The game went back and forth until the 10-0 mark when, with the score 47-44 in KU's favor, Memphis went on a 10-0 run with the Tigers' Derrick Rose scoring eight points in the stretch. Memphis continued to stretch its lead until the 2:12 mark when it led by nine, 60-51.
With their backs against the wall, KU went to work. Arthur hit a mid-range jumper. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Collins dove for the ball, grabbed it, and saved it to Jackson who kicked it right back to Collins for a three-pointer to cut the lead to four in a span of eight seconds.
With time ticking away, Kansas put Memphis on the free throw line where the Tigers missed three crucial charity shots in the final 1:15. With 10.8 seconds and Memphis up 62-60, Douglas-Roberts went to the line where he missed the first and made the second to make it 63-60.
Kansas then put the ball in the hands of its most clutch player and, with 2.1 seconds left, Chalmers hit biggest shot of his life - the three that sent the game to overtime.
Arthur led Kansas with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Chalmers scored 18 points to go with three boards, three assists and four steals. Rush and Collins finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Douglas-Roberts led all scorers with 22 for Memphis. Rose scored 18 and Robert Dozier had 11 points and 10 boards.
KU once again owned the lane, outscoring the Tigers 44-26 in the paint and outrebounding Memphis 39-28.
The title is Kansas' third NCAA Championship and fifth overall all-time championship. The Jayhawks' ended their storybook season with a 37-3 all-time record, while Memphis dropped to 38-2.
Chalmers was named Final Four MVP. He was joined on the all-tournament team by Rush, Collins, Douglas-Roberts and Rose.
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