With 2:12 left in the second half, Memphis’ Robert Dozier was at the free-throw line shooting two.
Memphis had a seven-point lead and all of the momentum. It had been close throughout the game, but it seemed as though they were starting to pull away from their opponent, Kansas.
After Dozier made both free throws and put his team up nine it seemed probable that Memphis was on their way to a national title, but, then, in the blink of an eye, Kansas’ Darrell Arthur made a two-point jumper, and Kansas stole the ball on the inbound pass.
Sherron Collins hit a three ball, closing the gap to four. After two made free throws by each team, and another Arthur jumper for Kansas, Memphis found themselves clinging to a two-point lead with 16 seconds left on the clock.
Memphis’ best free-throw shooter, first team all-American Chris Douglas-Roberts, was at the line shooting two.
He had just missed the front end of a one-and-one less than a minute before and seemed to be lacking confidence in his free-throw shooting. He was leaning back and not releasing the ball well.
Sure enough, both of his free throws clanged off the rim and bounced out.
Luckily, for Memphis, Dozier was able to grab the offensive rebound and kick the ball back out to Derrick Rose, who was promptly fouled.
With 10 seconds to go, Rose could have made it a two-possession game if he had made both of his free throws, but the first one bounced out. He did, however, make the second one.
Kansas got the ball back with 10 seconds on the clock.
Memphis coach John Calipari chose to sit on a timeout, which he could have used to tell his players to foul Kansas, preventing them from attempting a 3-pointer to tie.
But they didn’t foul, and Kansas’ Mario Chalmers nailed an off-screen 3-pointer to tie the game at 63. Dozier’s desperation shot from half court was no good and the game went into overtime. Kansas dominated the overtime period and went on to win the game 75-68.
The question is, “Was this game a Kansas win or Memphis loss?”
Watching the game, one thing obvious to me was how tired Memphis got toward the end of each half and in overtime. Kansas outscored Memphis 5-0 in the last 2 1/2 of the first half, 12-3 in the last two minutes of the second half, and 12-5 in overtime.
Memphis had three players who played 42 minutes or more, including Rose, who played all 45 minutes. Kansas only had two players who played 40 minutes or more, and everyone else was under 35 minutes.
It seems that, even with the loss of senior guard Roderick Stewart to a fractured patella, Kansas still had more depth than Memphis.
Free throws obviously killed Memphis down the stretch, as well. They missed four out of five in the last 1:15, including the front end of a one-and-one that could have led to another attempt.
The interesting thing about it is that they had their two best free-throw shooters at the line. Both Douglas-Robert and Rose shot 71 percent from the line. They just couldn’t hit the big free throw when it really mattered. Even one or two more made free throws could have put the game away.
With 10 seconds left, Calipari should have called a timeout to make sure his players knew they should foul. I don't care how many times they talked about it or practiced it, there was no reason not to call the timeout, and it probably cost them the game.
Memphis shot a measly 63.2 percent from the free throw line in the game, which is about five points higher than their season average, but is still pathetic. They also only shot 40.3 percent from the field. Kansas shot 93.3 percent from the and 52.7 percent from the field.
In the end, I think that Memphis did more things to shoot themselves in the foot than Kansas did to help themselves.
Not to take anything away from Kansas—they played a solid game, and shot the ball well from the field and the free throw line. I also recognize that this tremendous comeback couldn’t have happened without the clutch 3-pointers and the stolen inbound pass, but the bottom line is that Memphis was a couple of free throws away from a championship and they couldn’t get it done.
Congratulations to Kansas.
I forgive you for embarrassing my Tarheels in the Final Four. Chalk this one up as a loss for Memphis. At least now we don’t have to listen to Calipari make stupid comments like “free throws don’t matter."
At least not until next season.