Scores

Final

(3) Marquette 61

(23-6, 14-2 C-USA)

(2) Kansas 94

(30-7, 14-2 Big 12)

    6:07 PM ET, April 5, 2003

    Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

    1 2 T
    #3MARQ 30 3161
    #2KU 59 3594

    Jayhawks do it all right in monumental blowout

    NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Kansas shook the Superdome with rim-rattling dunks, a fast break that couldn't be stopped and a blowout of historic proportions.

    Kirk Hinrich

    Kirk Hinrich celebrates after scoring 18 points to help guide Kansas into the final.

    It was as close to perfect as basketball can get, and now the Jayhawks and Roy Williams are one step closer to that elusive national title.

    All-American Nick Collison scored 12 points and had 15 rebounds Saturday night to lift the Jayhawks to a 94-61 victory against overmatched Marquette, the fourth-most lopsided game in Final Four history.

    "Some people could say we reached the pinnacle of our game today,'' Williams said. "I hope there's still something left in us.''

    In his 15th season as coach at Kansas (30-7), Williams stands one win away from the national title he needs to fill out an otherwise impeccable resume.

    Whether he gets it or not Monday against Syracuse, a 95-84 winner over Texas in the second semifinal, he will go home knowing his team set a standard for Final Four excellence.

    Pushing the ball at will, outjumping and outhustling Marquette (27-6), the Big 12 regular-season champions shot 53 percent -- and that was despite a long dry spell when the reserves were on court at the end of the game.

    They made eight 3-pointers and many times simply embarrassed the Golden Eagles, snatching loose balls out of their hands, beating them downcourt for uncontested layups and dunking no fewer than 15 times.

    Collison may be the best player for Kansas, but he certainly wasn't the only star. Keith Langford led the Jayhawks with 23 points on 11-for-14 shooting. Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Miles scored 18 points each.

    The four of them missed only 16 of 46 shots before Williams finally relented, emptying the bench with 5 minutes left -- ensuring the Jayhawks would be fresh for their first appearance in the title game since 1991.

    Given the performance, Kansas might seem like a shoo-in for the title. Williams has been around too long to get comfortable.

    "You're still dealing with 19, 20, 21-year-old kids,'' he said. "Who knows what the mood will be? Our focus is to practice hard, and hope we play our best game of the season Monday night.''

    But how to top this?

    The Kansas win was the biggest blowout at the Final Four since Michigan State beat Penn 101-67 in the 1979 semifinals. The most lopsided was Princeton's 118-82 victory over Wichita State in a third-place game in 1965.

    "We've played a lot of good teams, some conference champions, and I would put them as good as anyone we've faced,'' Marquette coach Tom Crean said.

    Collison, who had 33 points and 19 rebounds in Kansas' 69-65 win over Duke last week, came five assists away from joining Marquette's Dwyane Wade as the second player in this monthlong NCAA tournament to record a triple-double.

    Collison came up short, but it was no problem.

    In a Final Four full of stars, he way outshined Wade, a fellow All-American. The Marquette junior closed out a remarkable season, and likely his college career, on a frustrating 19-point night that included a literal -- and inadvertent -- slap in the face from Collison. It happened while the Kansas forward was twisting to go up for a shot.

    It was one of many mortifying moments for Marquette, which shocked top-ranked Kentucky in last week's Midwest Regional final to make its first Final Four since 1977.

    The late Al McGuire led that team, then known as the Warriors, to their only championship that season, but on this night, the spirit of '77 certainly wasn't with them.

    "We were paralyzed a few times -- standing around, not getting back,'' Crean said.

    Never were they more flat-footed than late in the first half with Kansas leading 52-28.

    Langford missed the second of two free throws and Marquette's Robert Jackson had the rebound in his hands, only to fumble it away. Kansas missed, and on the rebound, the ball went right through the hands of Marquette's Todd Townsend and straight to Collison, who drove for an easy layup.

    It was part of a 18-4 run that Williams said was one of the most impressive he's ever seen.

    "I cannot remember any time where we've done that kind of thing,'' he said.

    Kansas led 59-30 at halftime -- the fourth-highest halftime point total in Final Four history. The Jayhawks had 16 assists by the half, one of many gaudy statistics they piled up in 20 minutes that most teams take an entire game to post.

    Williams, making his fourth Final Four appearance with the Jayhawks, will spend at least two more days deflecting talk of his potential candidacy for the North Carolina job.

    The coach has tersely avoided discussing a return to his alma mater, saying it would cheat his players in their quest to bring the first championship to Kansas since 1988 -- Larry Brown's last year as coach.

    "It's never really been a problem,'' Collison said, referring to the coaching talk. "We're in the Final Four. We've been playing all season. So, I think when you get to this point, you just focus on the game.''

    Maybe, however, Crean is interested. A key member of Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan State four years ago, Crean has been floated as a possible successor to Matt Doherty, largely due to Marquette's unexpected surge this season.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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