Kansas Jayhawks Earn Spot In NCAA Title Game


Upon walking into the infamous Phog Allen Fieldhouse, the energy level was indescribably exuberant and remained so through the remaining seconds of the nail-biting final four match against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Attending the game in New Orleans to watch the action unfold live would have been worthwhile in of itself. However, nothing can replace being in Lawrence, home of the beloved Jayhawks. We cheered together, booed together, and cried together. Witnessing the array of blues, reds, and whites jumping up and down together was something to behold.

However, KU did not make it easy for the audience to relax and enjoy. While able to hold a small early lead with the first basket scored, the Jayhawks did not regain this again until the last two minutes of the second half making for a total of 3:48 of game time that the Hawks led.

Throughout the first half, Kansas struggled against Ohio State’s consistent thirteen point lead largely thanks to senior guard William Buford. The Jayhawks lacked the momentum needed to prevent the Buckeyes from driving to the basket while also earning some much needed points of their own. Ohio State had a 46.2 shooting percentage with leads ranging from 7-2 to 26-13. Senior guard Travis Releford ended the first half with a last second layup, shaving the point differential to nine after junior center Jeff Withey blocked an Ohio State shot on the other end.

At halftime, Ohio State left the court leading Kansas 34-25. Slightly favored, this was no surprise. However the Buckeyes were in for a rude awakening once the Jayhawks regrouped under the leadership of Bill Self, the NCAA Coach of the Year. In the second half, the team would soon prove their ability to come back.

The final twenty minutes opened with Ohio State missing their first 10 shots. After earning his third foul, sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas was forced back to the bench by coach Thad Matta. This allowed junior forward Thomas Robinson to make more opportunities for a 13-4 run with junior guard Elijah Johnson. Tied at 38, both teams duked it out for a spot in the National Championship.

With 1:37 remaining, KU led 60-59 after two free throws made by Releford. Buford then unsuccessfully attempted to take it to the basket only to be swatted away by Withey. Johnson answered with a layup leaving the score 62-59.

Sophomore point guard Aaron Craft was fouled by the Jayhawks in the final 2.9 seconds with the score at 64-61. Once he made his initial free throw, Craft decided to throw the ball at the rim in the hopes of gaining the rebound, but instead committed a lane violation as he stepped off the free throw line too quickly. This pivotal moment secured the victory for the Kansas Jayhawks. Releford inbounded the ball to Johnson, ending the game 64-62 and gaining an underdog the final spot in the National Championship game.

When all were able to tear their eyes from the screen, the realization that Kansas had won hit nearly 6,000 fans to flood the home court in celebration. Many pictures, hugs and high-fives were exchanged within the mass chaos that was Lawrence.

High scorers of the night for Kansas included Robinson with 19 points, Releford with 15, Johnson with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Withey with 7 blocks and Taylor with 10 points. Ohio State’s contributers consisted of Buford with 19, and Sullinger with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Monday, April 2, the Kansas Jayhawks will take on the number one seeded Kentucky Wildcats in a fight to the finish of the 2012 March Madness.

Photo: Becca Schmidt