This year the NCAA Tournament was all about the blowout. Only three of the final 15 games were decided by fewer than ten points. Instead of late game drama and great game-deciding moments it was more about switching channels to check on other things going on.
Monday night was a completely different story.
Memphis had been plagued by horrible free throw shooting throughout the season, but coach John Calipari insisted he wasn't concerned. He said the Tigers made the ones they needed to make, and with the exception of the Tennessee game they did. Once the NCAA Tournament began Memphis couldn't miss at the charity stripe, including a phenomenal 20-23 in the win over UCLA.
But with the NCAA Title in its grasp missed free throws were the difference. Memphis led by nine with just more than two minutes to play but missed four consecutive free throws that could have all but assured victory.
First, Chris Douglas-Roberts missed the front end of a one-and one with the score 62-58 and 1:15 to play. With 16 seconds left to play and Memphis' lead cut to two, Douglas-Roberts blew two more freebies. An offensive rebound bailed him out and Derrick Rose was fouled with 10.8 seconds to play. Rose missed the first of two before making it a 63-60 game, but then Calipari blew it.
Memphis didn't call time out to set a defensive strategy to deny Kansas a 3-point shot. Memphis didn't foul, and instead watched Mario Chalmers drain a long range shot with 2.1 left on the clock and we had overtime for the first time since Kentucky/Arizona 11 years ago.
Kansas dominated overtime (12-5), but the story of this game came down to those four missed free throws and the coaching lapse in the final ten seconds. Eliminate any of that and Memphis is celebrating. Instead it's Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!
At least we got a great end to a lousy tournament. The last two years most of college basketball (Gator Nation excluded) suffered through lousy ends to great tournaments.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel
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