NEW ORLEANS – When on Monday night he sat just a few rows behind a bench in Kansas at the Caesars Superdome, Mario Chalmers tried not to dodge.
The program, which he led to the 2008 National Basketball Championship, took a break with a 15-point deficit. Chalmers, the hero of this team, who scored a three-pointer to turn the game into overtime in the victory over Memphis, hoped that the “Jayhawks” remember what is still possible.
“I just thought, ‘Keep believing,'” Chalmers said after Kansas’ 72-69 victory over North Carolina. “Same thing, coach [Bill] Sam told us [in 2008] was to continue to believe. And I knew that in the end they would be able to pull it off. “
The line between the joy of a difficult victory and the agony is almost thin. Selfie, who won his second national title on Monday, knows all too well after losing to Kentucky in the 2012 championship and losing to Vilanova in the 2018 Final Four. But his first championship team with Chalmers also suffered from in the second half, albeit in a more difficult and urgent scenario, so he challenged his 2022 players in the locker room.
“We were disappointed with the way we played during the break,” Self said after returning 16 points, the biggest deficit the winning team has overcome in the NCAA National Championship game. “I told them,‘ You would prefer to lose by 15 points in the break or by nine points [two minutes] on the left? ‘ because it happened in ’08. Everyone said 15. “
His players also looked at each other in the locker room and started shouting, “We’re back! We’re back!”
The return that saved the season – which further strengthened the legacy of the old coach – happened at that moment. But it was more than the flying bodies and energy of the collegiate athletes who staged a powerful offensive attack against the North Carolina team that had already fired Baylor, UCLA and Duke on their way to Hubert Davis ’first year championship game.
The Jayhawks knew how much energy North Carolina spent in 69 possessions against rival Duke 48 hours before Monday’s game. Although the Tar Heels seemed unbeaten in the first half, the Jayhawks waited for fatigue to come.
“Eventually we guarded the 3-point line and went to the bar, and a couple of them got into trouble,” said Kansas assistant Curtis Townsend. “We tried very hard [speed them up]. We thought one of these days they would run out of games. The last round is all we need. “
Eye of Agbaji, Remy Martin and Jalen Wilson come out with big buckets for Kansas on three possessions in a row.
At the start of the second half, Ochay Agbaji – who made just five shots in the first half and Leaky Black chased the Kansas star – was more aggressive. His explosions from the screens disappointed North Carolina, who played more cautiously with Black, who was trying to avoid his fourth foul, and Armando Bacott slapped on the bad right ankle, which he wounded at the end of the victory over the Blue Devils. With blows coming from everywhere – Kansas beat North Carolina 31-10 in the first 10 minutes of the second half and also outscored Tar Heels 20-8 in paint in that stretch – UNC seemed to be stunned by as the game was turned. Literally five minutes after the break Black came out on the bench with his fourth foul.
But KU’s defensive pressure was also critical. All night North Carolina made just five three-pointers. However, in the second half, North Carolina finished shooting from behind the arc with a score of 2 to 12 and missed all seven three-pointers on the right side of the field.
Efforts in the second half by Jalen Wilson (11 points), David McCormack (nine points), Christian Brown (10 points), Remy Martin (11 points) and Agbaji (four points) increased Kansas’ team, beating North Carolina 47-29 after . But the Jayhawks ’defensive discipline also made one of last month’s most explosive teams routine.
“It was ‘Rocky,'” Self said. “Just get fists, fists, fists. Almost taken out, and one way or another, you just keep fighting.”
Six months ago Self wasn’t sure he had a team that could do that. He respected the fuss about his 2021-22 team, which brought back Agbaji, McCormack and Brown, and added Martin, the All-Pac-12 star in Arizona, but Self was unwilling to compare him to his first and only national title team.
Sean Farnham determines the departure of Leaky Black at the moment when the Eye of Agbaji and Kansas turned the corner.
“That team played better in 2008 when it faced off [adversity]”Self told ESPN at the Big 12 Media Day in October. “We have some things that are similar, but I don’t know if it will really have to come to this, how much this team will like this team [adversity] if this team liked it. The harder it was, the more they liked it. ”
3 minutes 6 seconds before the game and the score was tied Monday night on the college’s biggest basketball stage, however Martin scored a 3-point from the corner and McCormack advised punches to keep Kansas ahead. The Jayhawks didn’t shrink.
Agbaji even laughed at Self, who climbed to the side when North Carolina gained another possession in the final seconds of the 3-point game after a review revealed that Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr. had gone off the field.
“[Self] he was drawing something and he was so tense and his lips were dry, “said Agbaji.” We understood, coach. “
With his second national title, Self can now replace Mike Krzyzewski as the face of university basketball – albeit in the most difficult chapter of the sport. The introduction of the transfer portal and the era of deals with names, images and similarities added more layers to the creation of the program. As a new sports champion and team leader who is still awaiting the outcome of a major infringement case that includes allegations of five Level I violations, Self has been recognized by some as a villain and easy target for a disorganized system that doesn’t seem to know what it wants from these investigations of others.
Caleb Lava’s attempt to tie the game was unsuccessful for North Carolina when Kansas won its fourth national title.
But the FBI’s assertion five years ago that it has a “game book” on college basketball didn’t bring up the broad accusations many expected. The sport has largely advanced. Self and Kansas could face sentencing in the coming months, but the lawsuit has yet to leave a significant mark.
The embarrassment of the moment was illustrated when Mark Emmert, NCAA leader who comes to Kansas and other programs, presented the championship trophy to Tom Burnett, Southland Conference Commissioner and head of the men’s basketball qualifiers to pass Sam, but only after Emert named the team Kansas City Jayhawks.
However, the joy of himself never disappeared on Monday. A few months ago he lost his father, Bill Self-Sr.. During the week, he said that he had talked to him, it is a pity that his father was present at this race – a run that raises the status of the coach among his peers. On Monday night, Self joined Jay Wright and Rick Pitt as the only active coaches with multiple national titles.
“It’s even better than I thought,” Self said before climbing the stairs to cut off a piece of the net in the Superdome.
As the confetti fell and the players greeted, the scene seemed familiar to Chalmers, who was smiling as he watched the celebration from the crowd.
The Kansas team, which made the biggest comeback in the history of the national champions on Monday night, played with a passion that Chalmers and his teammates also captured 14 years ago. And he was proud.
“Most teams,” Chalmers said, “would give up at that point.”