Saturday, March 23, 2002

Jayhawks get payback


Kansas 73, Illinois 69

By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Sports Writer

        MADISON, Wis. — This time, Kansas had the bench and the brawn to hold Frank Williams and Illinois in check.

        With three freshmen leading the way, the top-seeded Jayhawks beat the Illini 73-69 Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals, reversing the result of the teams' meeting last year in the round of 16.

        Kansas (32-3) will play second-seeded Oregon on Sunday for a Final Four berth. Oregon beat Texas 72-70 Friday.

        In 2001, the Jayhawks' season ended at this stage, with an 80-64 loss to Illinois, as Williams scored 30 points and the Illini's reserves outmuscled and outscored Kansas' subs 28-0.

        This time, Kansas' backups outscored Illinois' 25-14, and Williams only managed 15, hounded by Aaron Miles all over the court.

        Miles scored 13 points as part of the outstanding trio of first-year Jayhawks. Keith Langford scored 15 points, including two free throws with 2.8 seconds left that sealed the victory, and Wayne Simien added seven points and six rebounds.

        “It does not surprise me that their three freshmen played well,” Illinois coach Bill Self said. “Their three freshmen would be starting for every other school in America other than Kansas, with the exception of maybe one or two other schools.”

        Langford picked up the slack for senior Jeff Boschee, who was averaging 13.6 points but scored just six. Miles filled in nicely for junior Kirk Hinrich, who sprained his ankle in the first round and spent of much of the game against Illinois in foul trouble.

        “The bench was big-time for us,” Kansas coach Roy Williams said. “And that's a big part of our team this year. Last year we didn't get that.”

        Added Big 12 player of the year Drew Gooden, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds: “That's what's so great about this team. We are deep. We have guys who can come off the bench and pick up where other people left off.”

        Hinrich, averaging 15.2 points, made a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the game — but was scoreless after that.

        “I think maybe I was a little too pumped up,” Hinrich said. “I made some silly fouls.”

        Robert Archibald had 15 points and 10 rebounds for fourth-seeded Illinois (26-9), which pulled to 71-69 with 1:15 left when he made three consecutive huge plays.

        His tip-in pulled the Illini to 71-68, then he got the defensive rebound and was fouled at the other end, making one of two free throws. After Boschee missed a 3-pointer, Archibald got the rebound with 42 seconds left.

        But Brian Cook fired up an air ball from beyond the arc, and Gooden got the rebound with 22 seconds left. Archibald fouled out, sending Boschee to the line. He missed, and Williams got the rebound for Illinois.

        Williams missed a 14-foot jumper from the baseline, Langford picked up the rebound and he was fouled by Sean Harrington.

        “I got a good look. I just didn't knock down the shot, unfortunately,” Williams said. “That could have changed the game.”

        After a timeout, Langford sank both free throws.

        Why do you think they call him “Keith Freeze”?

        “That's the nickname they gave me back in high school. They can't freeze me, because I'm already cold,” Langford said. “I got cold water in my veins. Every time I go out on the court, I'm cool and collected.”

        Over a span of more than 12 minutes bridging halftime, Miles, Langford and Simien accounted for 17 of the Jayhawks' 23 points.

        With Hinrich on the bench in foul trouble, Nick Collison — who was scoreless in the first half — made three baskets in a 12-5 run that Kansas used to take a 69-59 lead with 5:10 left.

        Unlike last year, the Illini weren't able to send wave after wave of players into the fray. Gone from last year's team were bangers Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin, and this time, Kansas had the more impressive inside game with the 6-foot-10 Gooden and Collison and Simien, both 6-9.

        Illinois was outrebounded by the Jayhawks 41-34 — the sixth straight game it has lost the rebounding battle. And the Illini failed to capitalize on 14 Kansas turnovers, shooting just 38 percent to Kansas' 47 percent.

        “When you've got three future NBA players on this team — Drew, Nick and Kirk — of course there's going to be some overshadowing going on,” Langford said. “But time always passes.”

        The Jayhawks led 40-34 at halftime, and 14 of Kansas' last 16 points of the half came from Miles, Langford or Simien.

        “They won the game for us,” Collison said. “If we had normal freshmen who hadn't been in that situation, we probably would have lost.”

       



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