Jayhawks’ effort not enough against stacked Kentucky team
- Apr. 3, 2012
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You can grow into the best player you can be, figure how to make it work with your teammates and take this progression all the way to the championship game.
Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter.
On a night when the Kansas Jayhawks had to play just about perfectly to defeat the vaunted Kentucky Wildcats, in many ways, they did themselves in.
Kentucky was brilliant early, but some Jayhawks in the locker room said that they were their own undoing in Monday night’s 67-59 loss in the championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“You make it to the national championship,” senior guard Tyshawn Taylor said, “and it still feels like you lose in the first round.”
After all the games they should have never won, but did, and all the steps it took to get this far, it’s over now.
“When you get a puppy and you watch that puppy grow up and die,” junior guard Elijah Johnson said, “that hurts.”
Kentucky forward Anthony Davis was forceful as expected, swatting and retaining just about every shot that approached him. When he wasn’t blocking, he was driving the Jayhawks away from where he stood, forcing long shots that have never been their forte. In the first half, the Wildcats scored with grace and efficiency as expected, knocking down dagger three-pointers and throwing down momentum-draining dunks.
But in the second half, the Jayhawks clamped down and allowed just 26 points. Their defense revived their spirits. The same heads that hung dejectedly in the first half were facilitating runs. Despite trailing by 14 points at halftime, they fully believed that they were going to win this game. They brought the deficit to just five points with 1:37 to play.
“If they were going to beat us, they were going to remember us,” Johnson said. “They were going to feel the last of us.”
“No one could tell us that we were going to lose except for the scoreboard,” he said.
But it wasn’t enough. They routinely missed layups and dunks. They turned the ball over, into a Wildcat’s hands or soaring out of bounds, just when they seemed poised for a comeback. When they finally seized momentum, they were out of time.
“We’ve been working on this since October,” Johnson said, “just dreaming about it.”
And now it’s over. This surprising team that rallied behind Self’s system and its trust in one another made it to the championship game. It just wasn’t enough.
The Wildcats were fully expected to win this game. Their talent-stacked rotation had consistently blown opponents away. But on Monday night, this wasn’t the case.
Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor’s hands, the magnets of fate, compelled comeback teases with quick dribble drives, then eluded victory with five turnovers, one that was in the final minute of the game.
“I can’t get this back,” Taylor said. “That was my last time putting on a Kansas jersey.”
It seems that junior forward Thomas Robinson, through all the tragedies and familial support from loving fans, has also played his last game as a Jayhawk.
Now all that’s left is time to reflect. Coach Self, take it away.
“From start to finish, there’s been no team I’ve been around compete this hard. There’s been no team I’ve been around that was able to take whatever situation dealt them and respond to it favorably. And there’s no team I’ve been around that represented our University or ourselves, or their families, any better than this one has.”
Edited by Christine Curtin