Duke had narrowed Kansas's lead to three points with less than four minutes to go when Pritchard went backdoor on Kevin Strickland, jump-turned on the baseline, double pumped and flipped the ball ceilingward "just to get a foul." When the ball fell through the hoop, Pritchard was flat on his back. After Pritchard missed a wide-open chippie with 2:08 left and Manning circled inside and put in the rebound to give the Jayhawks a 59-54 lead, the Blue Devils were flat on theirs as well.
"Just average Danny stuff," said Piper. "He's always held his game down for us. He's still hiding his talents."
In the other semifinal, Oklahoma's athletic skills proved to be too much for Arizona, those western Wildcats of the 35-2 record, the exquisite-passing teamwork, the dancing Gumbies on the bench and the versatile forward. Sean Elliott, in the headlines. Elliott may be the only Wildcat who could make the Sooners' first eight. "He's a wild-butt player," said Oklahoma's Blaylock, "but the others would get too tired running with us." Even Elliott raised his hand early to come out for a rest in the Sooners' surprisingly routine 86-78 victory.
With the score only 20-19 in favor of Oklahoma with 8:31 to go in the first half, Arizona seemed to be doing fine. Precisely 170 seconds later the Wildcats were behind 31-19 and gasping. Yoo-hah, it was another Tubbs-thumping "crush 'n' kill" roundup, with King (21 points) scoring at will on turnarounds and Blaylock's quick-as-a-wink hands disrupting everything Arizona tried on the perimeter. "It's tough to be an inspiration when you're 2 for 13," said Steve Kerr, who was shooting an NCAA-record 59.9% in treys before being muted by the Mookster.
Olson's stylish composure was early knocked out of sync by the Sooners' speed and fierce pressure. Cool Hand Lute even railed at his own Gumbies—whom Wiley called "Gooeys"—ordering them to shut up and sit still. "Oklahoma had tremendous endurance," Olson said admiringly.
"I think that we flat wore them out," said the Sooners" Sieger. "After a while when they caught the ball, they stopped trying moves. They just looked at us and passed it."
All except Elliott, who finished with 31 points despite playing one-on-five at times. In one stretch, during which King went to the bench with his fourth foul, Elliott got seven of eight Wildcat points to bring his team to within four points with 8:08 left. Tubbs merely turned up the heater on the Sooners' zone traps and ordered Grant (21 points, 10 rebounds) to go to work. "They're obviously the horses," said Elliott. Moreover, Wiley, a shaved-head transfer from Compton (Calif.) J.C., replaced King sc efficiently (11 points, four rebounds and a humongous blocked shot) that King never got his rattail haircut back in the game.
Wiley was even more spectacular in the Sooners' wild-and-woolly Friday practice. Long after all those Kansas fanatics had gone home, Wiley put on a slam exhibition that included some vintage Jordanesque stuff, plus a two-ball dunk and a jump-over-three-ballkids routine. Tubbs said, "I told Andre I'd put a quarter on top of the backboard, and if he could touch it, he could have it. He said, 'What about a hundred dollar bill?' I said, 'All I got is Grovers [as in Grover Cleveland, a.k.a. $1,000 bills].' "
Wiley knew what that meant, even if his teammates weren't so sure about the significance of two Big Eight teams making it to the national championship game. Grace: "The Big Eight doesn't gel as much credit as those other...uh...those other.... What is it? Big Eight...uh...what?
Grant and King, in unison, setting Amazing straight: "Conference. The Big Eight conference"