NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Kansas shook the Superdome with rim-rattling
dunks, a fast break that couldn't be stopped and a blowout of
It was as close to perfect as basketball can get, and now the
Jayhawks and Roy Williams are one step closer to that elusive
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
"Some people could say we reached the pinnacle of our game
today,'' Williams said. "I hope there's still something left in
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
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.