By Danny Clinkscale
There were still plenty of tears flowing in the Kansas locker room last night here in New Orleans, but they were probably not as bitter as some that have spilled on a Jayhawk jersey in other locker room after other NCAA losses in the past.
It hurt the players, but they were lovable underdogs, a scrappy bunch that game after game in the NCAA tournament shot in the 35% range, but still fashioned unlikely comebacks all the way to the National Championship game. They were not mighty goliaths carrying season-long expectations falling to lesser seeds. Yes, it hurt, but in a different way.
Kentucky was clearly the superior team, and even though Connor Teahen said he almost wished that KU had been run by 30 points, so it wouldn't hurt so much to look back on missed opportunities after they had rallied back into the game....once again. Kansas tried the same script that had proved so successful for them, falling behind, regrouping at halftime, and coming out like attack dogs on defense in the second half. They once again held an opponent under 30 points, and 30%, after the break. But this time it was Kentucky, and the deficit was 18, and at halftime,14, and it was just too much.
When you are coming back from that deficit, you can't waste opportunities. KU only had nine turnovers, but didn't it seem like more??? That's because they came at just the wrong time. An Elijah Johnson travel, a Tyshawn Taylor pass that whizzed past Thomas Robinson's head. That pass came after a nifty back door cut by Taylor that usually nets a dunk. But this time it was Kentucky, and there was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to block it. Not a dunk like in the 19-point comeback against Mizzou. UK was too good.
Connor Teahen also said that nobody remembers national runner-ups...well, maybe nationally, and not really totally to fans of the sport. But definitely not the Kansas fans. The tweets were already flying after the game about how proud people were of the team, and that they would remember the season fondly. They should. A team really only picked to be co-champs on tradition and ranked around No. 15 to start the season won the league title again, and played for the national championship. While the tears flowed in the locker room, soon the 2011-12 team will realize how far they came.
And has Roy Williams himself, vanquished from the tournament again by Kansas, once said.... "ENJOY THE JOURNEY".
For one season anyway, I believe the Jayhawk faithful really did.
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