Careers of Hinrich, Collison have disappointing conclusionPosted: Tuesday April 08, 2003 12:18 AM
Updated: Tuesday April 08, 2003 3:08 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- This was supposed to be their show-stopping finale -- Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich, together for one final game on college basketball's biggest stage.
Instead, their last season ended just like the first three: with Hinrich and Collison watching another team celebrate. They led a late charge in Monday night's title game, but Syracuse won 81-78 in Kansas' first final appearance since 1991.
Still, coach Roy Williams sounded anything but disappointed in the pair of coaches' sons from Iowa, whose names became intertwined like few others in Kansas' long basketball history.
"Words can't describe those kinds of kids and what they mean to me," said Williams, who came up just short of his first title in 15 seasons at Kansas. "Even right now in the losing locker room, I feel as if I'm the luckiest coach in America, because I got to coach Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison."
Collison fouled out with 24 seconds to go, after scoring 19 points and pulling down 21 rebounds but shooting horribly from the free-throw line.
Hinrich had 16 points, but his last-second 3-point try sailed long after another long attempt rattled out with 17 seconds to go.
"He's a great shooter," said Syracuse's Billy Edelin, whose foul on Hinrich earlier in the second half left Hinrich limping on a sore left ankle. "We had three guys in his face. If he would have made that, he would have deserved it."
Hinrich struggled early against Syracuse's zone, missing badly on his first two 3-point tries. Despite hitting two 3-pointers over a short stretch midway through the first half, he appeared tentative from outside for the rest of the game and never gave the Jayhawks a consistent perimeter scoring threat.
But he and Kansas' transition game seemed to be finding a groove early in the second half.
After the foul by Edelin with 12 1/2 minutes left, Hinrich came back in with 11 minutes to go but had just five more points down the stretch.
Collison found enough seams in the zone to score 12 points in the first half, but the taller Orangemen clamped down on him after the break. He hit a follow shot with just over 17 1/2 minutes left but -- partly because of a terrible night from the line -- went scoreless until he hit the back end of a two-shot foul with 4:23 left.
Collison hit just 3-of-10 free-throw attempts, part of a disastrous 12-for-30 night from the line for Kansas.
"You try to make a free throw," he said, shaking his head. "You miss, you make -- there's nothing else you can do."
Williams was quick to defend Collison, though, calling him a "warrior."
"He goes 3-for-10, and it bothered him greatly, but it didn't bother his heart," Williams said. "Nineteen points, 21 rebounds. What a performance."
Sophomore guard Keith Langford and junior forward Jeff Graves filled in as best they could when Hinrich and Collison were in a lull, but Langford -- the only Kansas player consistently able to penetrate Syracuse's zone on the dribble -- fouled out with 5 1/2 minutes left after scoring 19 points.
"Having to watch from the sideline, that was really emotionally draining," Langford said.
Graves, a junior college transfer who had to earn his way into Williams' good graces after showing up 40 pounds overweight before the season -- and became a starter only when sophomore Wayne Simien separated his shoulder -- had 16 points and 16 rebounds.
"He's been a heck of a work in progress during the course of the year," Williams said. "Sixteen points, 16 rebounds in a national championship game is something he'll remember for a long time."
Despite their enviable careers at Kansas -- two Final Fours and four NCAA tournament appearances -- and the praise of their coach, the anguish of the title-game loss was foremost in the thoughts of the Jayhawks' star seniors.
"It's hard to reflect on all that right now," Hinrich said.
"You just can't put the disappointment out of your mind."