Moment of the Year: College Hoops
Memphis was up by nine points with three minutes to go, but Kansas won the title
With less than three seconds left, Mario Chalmers hit a three to send it to OT
It was the Jayhawks' first title since Danny Manning and the Miracles in 1988
As Memphis freshman Derrick Rose went to the foul line for two shots with his team leading by one and 10.8 seconds remaining in the 2008 NCAA championship game, Memphis coach John Calipari sat on the bench and experienced a moment of Zen.
Lord, he thought, whatever happens here, let it be your will.
Rose missed his first free throw before sinking the second to put the Tigers up by three. In retrospect, Calipari might have been better off at that moment calling a timeout to remind his guys how to close out a game in the final seconds.
The textbook strategy to deploy when you're up by three with fewer than 10 seconds remaining is to commit a foul, which denies your opponent the chance to shoot a 3-pointer.
But Memphis, which had waxed its Conference USA opponents by an average of 20.3 points and had won its five NCAA tournament games by an average of 15.6 points, wasn't accustomed to being in that situation. And over the next 10.8 seconds, it showed.
After Rose's second free throw, Kansas inbounded the ball to Sherron Collins, the swift, tough-as-nails point guard from Chicago. Collins took a moment to size up Rose, his defender, before blowing by the freshman with a crossover dribble. Rose caught up to Collins at halfcourt, but instead of fouling him, Rose held his arms up and bumped Collins with his chest.
Collins started to stumble as he drove to the right wing, but he managed to hand the ball off to his teammate, junior guard Mario Chalmers, before falling to the floor. Chalmers collected the ball and circled back towards the top of the key. Rose immediately switched defenders and lunged at Chalmers as he let his 3-point attempt fly.
Bottom. Chalmers had sunk one of the most dramatic shots in college basketball history with just 2.7 seconds left on the clock, knotting the score at 63. Memphis quickly inbounded the ball to 6-9 sophomore forward Robert Dozier, whose halfcourt heave bounced harmlessly off the backboard, sending the 2009 NCAA championship game into overtime.
After blowing a nine-point lead over the final 2 ˝ minutes of regulation, the Tigers were mentally deflated. They were also at a physical disadvantage since their center/enforcer, Joey Dorsey, had fouled out. The result was a 75-68 Jayhawks win, which, amazingly enough, came exactly 20 years after Danny Manning led the Miracles to the 1988 crown.
Chalmers' shot was without question the moment to remember in college basketball for 2008. Memphis and its fans might prefer it to be otherwise but, alas, some things are not so easily forgotten.