|Rose nearly lifted Memphis to a title; frosh star's missed FT may linger|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 07 April 2008 19:56|
Memphis' sensational freshman approached a triple-double despite a Kansas defense stacked against him and powered a game-changing stretch, scoring 14 points and assisting on the only other basket in a run that took his team from down by three to up by seven.
If only he had made a free throw with 10 seconds left, or gotten called for a foul he was trying to commit, he probably would've turned Memphis into national champs.
Rose was at his best during the NCAA tournament title game against Kansas on Monday night - but not long enough. He scored only three points in the first half and was shut out in overtime, then had to slink off the court with streamers falling and the Jayhawks celebrating a 75-68 victory.
``I thought we had it,'' he said. ``But they're a good team. They're going to keep fighting. That's what they did.''
Rose finished with 18 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals, the kind of all-around dominance Memphis fans came to expect from him. He gave the NBA a taste of what it can expect during an 8-minute stretch of the second half, when he made three layups, a 3-pointer, another long jumper, a mid-range J and a free throw in a 16-4 run that took the Tigers from trailing 43-40 to leading 56-47.
They stretched the lead to nine with 2:12 left, but couldn't protect it partly because Chris Douglas-Roberts missed three free throws and Rose missed another.
``I thought it was going in,'' Rose said. ``It bounced around the rim two or three times.''
After he made the next one, Sherron Collins drove downcourt and Rose tried fouling him, but didn't get a whistle. Collins got the ball to Mario Chalmers for a high-arching 3-pointer that tied it with 2.1 seconds left.
``I didn't want to slap him like on his arm or something obvious that they'd call intentional,'' Rose said, ``so I hipped him a little bit and he fell a little bit. That's why I thought they were going to call it, but they didn't call it.''
The kid from Chicago who wears No. 23 and, at times, plays like Michael Jordan was sapped.
Not only was he slowed Sunday by a stomachache, he played the entire first half and all but one minute of the second half. When regulation ended, he was bouncing up and down his right leg while a cramp grabbed his left calf. In overtime, all he could muster was an assist, a turnover and a missed 3.
``It's a heartbreaker,'' Rose said.
The finish doesn't diminish the phenomenal season he had. But it does change his spot in history. Instead of joining Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony as a freshman who led his team to the title, he winds up being just another great freshman in NCAA tournament history.
When Rose looks back on this season, he'll have lots of fond memories: The 38 wins, the most by a Division I team; the five weeks at No. 1 and never being lower than No. 3 in the poll; being the first Conference USA team to make the national title game and the first team from a non-BCS league to make it since UNLV in 1990.
Heck, he can even take pride in the losses - to the No. 2 team in the country and a memorable title game that needed overtime to decide.
``We didn't get it done, but it was a nice ride,'' Rose said. ``The only thing I'd take back is this loss.''
He said it's too soon to say whether he'll turn pro.
``I've got to talk to my family about that,'' Rose said. ``I haven't even been thinking about it yet. ... It'll probably be weeks after this, a month.''
If he ever watches the replay of this game, he might want to fast-forward through the first half, when he took just four shots and made one. He contributed in other ways, but the Tigers were held to just 28 points, matching their second-lowest total this season.
At times, he probably felt as if Kansas had six guys on the court and all were covering him. There was one play when he spun away from his man only to be met by a big man. He then threw the ball across the court and it was intercepted. He even missed some layups.
``When you went to the hole, you were going against two big guys,'' he said. ``I didn't want to seem like I was forcing the issue, so I was passing it around. Then they were respecting the pass in the second half. That's when I started driving a lot.''
Rose opened the second half feeding Robert Dozier for a dunk. Then he threw an alley-oop pass that Joey Dorsey stuffed, putting Memphis back in front.
After Kansas went up by three, Rose began cutting the lead with a hard-charging, high-flying layup. A few trips later, he soared above two big men and banked in another layup to keep the deficit at one.
He fed Dozier for a jumper, then followed with a 3-pointer from the top of the key that put Memphis up 49-47. After a Kansas timeout, he scored in the lane, stretching the lead to 51-47. Then came a three-point play.
``I didn't even know I was doing it like that,'' Rose said. ``I was just trying to put my team in a position to win, so they could get on me and I could start passing. That's all I was trying to do.''
Then came the shot of all shots, the one that would've been replayed over and over had Memphis won: Rose taking an inbounds pass from Dozier, jumping and banking it in, a shot he had to rush because the shot clock was about to go off. Originally called a 3-pointer, it was changed to a 2.
In the end, that missing point cost Memphis.
So did the missed free throw.