Posts Tagged ‘ March Madness ’

Robinson scores 18 points, Withey has 10 blocks as No. 2 seed Kansas beats NC State 60-57

As Reported By The Associated Press

North Carolina State needed a miraculous run late in the season just to make it to the NCAA tournament. Then it seemed as if the Wolfpack would never go home.

Even when mighty Kansas, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional, had pulled ahead by eight in the closing minutes Friday night, coach Mark Gottfried’s bunch refused to give in. It wasn’t until Richard Howell’s off-balance shot at the buzzer came up short that reality finally hit.

The dream season for the No. 11-seed Wolfpack had ended in a 60-57 defeat.

“I was proud of them,” Gottfried said afterward. “It was a tough day for us, but we’ll step back and look at what all was accomplished. For that, these guys need to hold their heads really high and feel good about what they were able to accomplish.”

It was that far beyond anybody’s expectations.

The team was picked in the middle of the pack in the ACC — at best — yet managed to knock off San Diego State and Georgetown to reach the Midwest Regional semifinals.

The Wolfpack just didn’t have an answer for the bruising inside tandem of Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, who provided the grit that moved Kansas within a game of the Final Four.

Robinson finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Withey blocked 10 shots to finish one shy of the NCAA tournament record. And the Jayhawks set up a date with top-seeded North Carolina on Sunday night — a showdown between the bluest of the bluebloods.

“It’ll be a great game. Two great teams, two teams with great size, both well-coached. It’ll be a great game,” Gottfried said. “We’re just disappointed we’re not in it.”

C.J. Leslie had 18 points to lead N.C. State (24-13), despite sitting much of the second half with four fouls. Scott Wood finished with 12 points on 2-for-10 shooting, though his biggest error wasn’t a missed shot but the shot he never even got to attempt.

N.C. State had pulled within 58-57 on a transition layup by C.J. Williams with just over a minute remaining. The teams swapped possessions before Kansas managed to get a layup from Elijah Johnson off an inbound pass from Taylor with 13.5 seconds left.

The Wolfpack crossed midcourt and called a timeout to set up a play, which was designed to get the ball to Wood off a baseline pass. Instead, a skip pass went high and the sharpshooter stepped out of bounds trying to pull it in, giving the ball back to Kansas with 5 seconds to go.

Robinson was fouled and missed the free throw at the other end, but a pass down court and Howell’s tightly guarded shot at the buzzer came up nowhere close, allowing Kansas to escape.

“We did not execute very well. The end of the day, that’s my responsibility,” Gottfried said.

Johnson finished with 11 points for the Jayhawks (30-6), who moved on despite a lousy performance by Taylor. Their second-leading scorer had six points on 2-for-14 shooting.

Kansas was just 1 for 14 from beyond the arc as a team.

“It gets frustrating, but I can’t hang my head and get down. I’ve just got to be able to do other things to help my team win,” said Taylor, who still managed 10 rebounds and five assists.

The Wolfpack took a page from Purdue’s playbook over the first eight minutes, using constant double teams on Robinson inside and forcing Kansas to settle for jump shots.

They didn’t go in, at least early on.

Just as they did against the Boilermakers last weekend, Kansas struggled to gain traction, and Leslie took advantage by scoring five of his 12 first-half points during an opening salvo.

Williams’ 3-pointer gave the Wolfpack a 17-11 lead — their biggest of the half.

Kansas eventually clawed back, relying on defense during a 12-0 run. Withey provided most of it inside with seven blocks in the first half.

“I was just in a zone,” he said. “After the first block I just got in a rhythm.”

Leslie answered with back-to-back baskets for N.C. State, and his bucket on the heels of a 3-pointer by Wood gave the Wolfpack a 33-32 lead at the break — their last lead of the game.

Johnson, who provided the big shots that allowed Kansas to reach St. Louis, hit his only 3-pointer of the game out of halftime. It was the start of a 12-2 run during which Leslie was forced to the bench with four fouls and nearly 16 minutes still on the clock.

“It was a very physical game. They’re very active coming over and helping,” he said.

Kansas extended the lead to 50-40 when Taylor lobbed a pass to Withey for an alley-oop dunk, and a partisan crowd inside the Edward Jones Dome roared in approval.

Leslie finally checked back in with less than 7 minutes left, giving N.C. State a brief boost. But moments later he was back on the floor as trainers appeared to work on a cramp, and Kansas pounded away inside before he checked back into the game.

The lead was 58-50 with just over 3 minutes remaining, and Kansas managed to hold on during a furious final stretch to reach another regional final — and earn a date with the Tar Heels.

“We didn’t shoot the ball really great. To get the win feels really good,” Withey said. “It was all defense, and we’re dancing. We’re still in the NCAA tournament.”

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Musings of a Long Suffering Fan

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

I am looking for a professional football team to follow. The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t it. Why, you ask? Why should I not continue to be a fan of the Chiefs? To be honest, I haven’t really been a Chiefs fan since 2006 when they lost to the Indianapolis Colts 23-8 in a game in which they did not gain ONE first down till late in the 3rd quarter! That was the most frustrating game as a fan and since that day when the Chiefs showed their ineptitude, I have stopped giving them my heart and soul on the gridiron. Frankly speaking, I cannot afford to continue to be so embarrassed as I have been by the Chiefs for as long as I can remember. To no surprise and continuing to not disappoint in embarrassing their long suffering fans, they lost today to the Detroit Lions 48-3.

I have had many frustrating games as a fan in many sports. Long before I was a Chiefs fan due to living in the Kansas City area, I used to be a Buffalo Bills fan mainly because I liked the defense of Bruce Smith, Daryll Talley and Cornelius Bennett as well as the offense of QB Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed. That was a high flying team of the early ’90’s who famously won 4 straight AFC Championships and subsequently lost 4 straight Super Bowls, first one by only one point to a fellow New York Team, the NY Giants, on a late field goal miss by Scott Norwood that started the string of four consecutive Super Bowl losses. The Bills became the only team ever to play in four straight Super Bowls, and also lose four straight championships.

As if the consecutive Super Bowl losses 4 straight years from 1990 thru 1994 weren’t enough, I managed to double my futility as a sports fan when that final year in 1994, my favorite NBA basketball team, the New York Knicks, also lost in a seven game NBA Finals to the Houston Rockets led by none other than future hall of famer and devout Muslim, Hakeem Olajuwon. The Kicks who were always my favorite NBA team, mainly because they were a NY team and I have always thought of myself as a New Yorker, even though I had never lived there, but primarily as it was and always will be the one city that I associate with America. Afterall, New York and Ellis Island have been the main point of entry for generations of Americans and this was the city where I landed as a 14 year old student at JFK airport in NY, headed to boarding school in Vermont in the fall of 1989.

The Knicks with Patrick Ewing had been haunted by Michael Jordan and the Bulls for three consecutive years, when the greatest of all time single handedly defeated my Knicks on his way to his first three-peat. But that year when Ewing and John Starks finally managed to get past the Chicago Bulls, sans Michael as he had retired, Hakeem managed to swat their and my sports dreams on his way to championships in 1994 and 1995.

I became convinced in the early ’90’s that I was jinxed when it came to my sports teams when in 1991, my favorite team of ANY sport on ANY level, the Kansas Jayhawks lost in the NCAA Finals to the hated Duke Blue Devils. The year after that defeat they got “stepped all over by UTEP” in the second round and continued their futility over one lower ranked foe to another all the way till the 2008 season when they finally won their first championship since 1988, a year before I even arrived in the US. If it was not for the Jayhawks championship of 2008, I would be without any sports championship to my name as a fan since following sports closely at the beginning of the ’90’s, some 20+ years ago.

The Jayhawks are a team I am forever bound to with loyalty. Not only is that due to having gone to school at Mount Oread as a student in the early ’90’s but also because despite many disappointing seasons in the last 20 years, they are not a complete disappointment due to having one of the highest winning percentages of any Division I basketball program and occasionally winning a championship every couple decades, something I cannot say of rivals K-state and Mizzou. Still, for as dominant a program as KU is year in and year out, they should have a few more championships. Regardless, I will be a diehard Jayhawk fan as this school may lose and at times disappoint me, it will never embarrass me. I wish I could say that of Chiefs .

No the Chiefs of the last 20 years have been a huge disappointment. They have been embarrassing in fact. There was a time when teams used to fear coming into Arrowhead stadium to play the Chiefs. The spanking of the Chiefs 41-7 by none other than the Buffalo Bills last weeks proves, that Arrowhead stadium has lost a lot of its mystique.

This week as the Chiefs lost to the formerly hapless Detroit Lions 48-3 in Detroit, the Buffalo Bills came from behind and won an exciting game against the Oakland Raiders to go 2-0. As I look around the NFL landscape, I am trying desperately to latch onto a team to follow and support in this nascent NFL season, I keep coming back to my past #1 NFL team, the Buffalo Bills , as a team I am getting excited about.  At least they offer me hope to still call myself an NFL fan. This is a team that is clearly improving and on an upward trajectory, someting I can not say about the Kansas City Chefs.

I know there are those who are much more unfortunate than me when it comes to sports futility as a fan. I am sure someone in Cleveland or Chicago may lament to me about the drought they have had and the suffering they have endured as a Chicago Cubs fan or a Cleveland Browns fan, going decades since winning any championships. Heck even fellow AFC west rivals, the San Diego chargers have gone 47 years and counting since winning a championship, currently the longest drought in the NFL. Yeah, but they are in San Diego! Have you seen the scenery and the weather? Not to mention the beaches! No, I do not feel very badly for them.

As for me, I may be jumping back on the Buffalo Bills bandwagon so I can salvage some interest in the NFL season as I have a feeling that the Chiefs will not be fulfilling that void anytime soon. At least they are a team that I can get behind and get excited about. That is, at least until March Madness and Rock Chalk Jayhawk time. It is funny how life always has a way of coming full circle.

Manzer Munir is a long suffering sports fan who is a diehard Kansas Jayhawk, a proud American of Pakistani descent and founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com and at other websites as a freelance journalist and opinionist.

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