Sunday, April 6, 2003
Kansas vs. Syracuse for NCAA championship
By Hal Bock
The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS - Kansas now becomes Syracuse's problem, and Carmelo Anthony becomes the Jayhawks' headache.
Kansas routed Marquette 94-61 with a jaw-dropping display of flawless basketball in the NCAA tournament semifinals Saturday night before Anthony's 33 points carried Syracuse past Texas 95-84.
That set up a Monday night championship game between Roy Williams of Kansas and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, two of college basketball's most successful coaches, each seeking his first national title.
Boeheim has coached Syracuse to 652 victories in 27 seasons, but lost title games to Indiana in 1987 and Kentucky in 1996. Williams is in his 15th season at Kansas and lost the 1991 championship game to Duke.
The two coaches talked recently about the possibility of facing each other in the title game.
"We both just said if we get there Monday night, one of us won't have to listen anymore" to criticism, he said. "And whoever wins, we'll give about seven or eight (golf) shots a side to the other guy."
For Syracuse, Kansas will be the third straight Big 12 opponent, following Oklahoma and Texas, both No. 1 seeds in the tournament and both distracted by the Orangemen's tenacious 2-3 zone defense.
The defense forced Texas to shoot from outside, and for a while, the Longhorns made that work. They hit 10 3-pointers, five by Brandon Mouton and three by Brian Boddicker.
But Anthony was impossible to contain. He made 12 of 19 shots from the field, grabbed 14 rebounds and had three steals. And when he wasn't hounding Texas, freshman sidekick Gerry McNamara was pestering the Longhorns with 19 points, four steals and four straight foul shots down the stretch that kept Syracuse comfortably in front.
Anthony (22.0) and McNamara (13.0) were the top freshmen scoring duo in the country this season, accounting for 44 percent of Syracuse's points.
Boeheim admires his team, which has just one senior on the roster.
"They're young enough to think they can do anything," he said. "I'm not going to tell them differently. They're unusual freshmen. I felt that from the beginning."
Anthony said the team's confidence is high as it looks to cap the season with the ultimate prize.
"That's what players come to college for, to try and be in a situation like this, to play in a championship game," he said.
Kansas turned the first game into a rout early, scoring 59 first-half points, the second most in Final Four history. The 33-point margin made it the fourth-most lopsided game ever in the event.
Kirk Hinrich scored 18 points, and he insisted Kansas would try to play even better in the title game.
"You always try to play the perfect game although that never happens," he said.
The Jayhawks came awfully close, though.
"Some people could say we reached the pinnacle of our game today," Williams said. "I hope there's still something left in us. You're still dealing with 19, 20, 21-year-old kids. Who knows what the mood will be. Our focus is to practice hard, and hope we play our best game of the season Monday night."
Kansas put its whole game on display against Marquette. The Jayhawks ran and dunked and left the Golden Eagles with very few options.
"They played a great, great basketball game in every facet of the game," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "Offensively, they moved the ball extremely well, defensively they made it tough for us to score and they rebounded the ball at a high rate.
"They are very, very, very good. I would put them with as good as anybody we've faced."
Aaron Miles, who had 18 points, tried to play down Kansas' dominating performance.
"A win is a win," he said. "Whether you win by one point or 100 points, it doesn't matter. All it did was guarantee us a spot in the national championship."
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PLAN YOUR DAY
Sports this weekend on TV, radio