Now, the Kansas Jayhawks know how it feels.
Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn hit a 3-pointer with just seconds on the clock to send the CBE Classic championship game to overtime. The Orange would then rip KU’s heart out with an 89-81 victory and hand the Jayhawks their first loss of the season.
The drama played out very similarly to the way it did in KU’s win over Memphis in the national championship game last April when Mario Chalmers sent the game to overtime with a three. KU center Cole Aldrich went to the line with the Jayhawks leading 69-67. Aldrich made the first free-throw and missed the second, and Flynn stormed down the court and nailed a three with a tired Aldrich unable to get a hand in his face.
Of course, KU’s fan base, which packed the Sprint Center on Tuesday night with 16,988 fans, was familiar with this feeling. The Orange – back then, they were called the Orangemen – beat KU in the 2003 national championship game in New Orleans 81-78, and the only thing the Jayhawks lacked was a three. KU’s Michael Lee had a 3-point attempt blocked by Syracuse’s Hakim Warrick in the final seconds.
Tuesday night’s thrilling finish signaled the true beginning of the 2008 season. The young Jayhawks showed flashes of brilliance; Tyshawn Taylor had 17 points and was one of the main reasons that KU led by as much as 13 points early in the second half. But the Jayhawks showed their inexperience in coughing up that lead during a five-minute stretch during which they were held without a field goal.
The Jayhawks finally showed their age. And surprisingly, it was their best player, point guard Sherron Collins, who turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions, leading to two easy buckets for Jonny Flynn as the Orange turned a 53-41 KU lead into a 54-54 tie.
The teams traded runs after that, and the score was 69-69 when Marcus Morris found Aldrich in the paint for an easy bucket to give KU that 71-69 lead.
The Jayhawks wasted an inspired first half that saw Taylor and Collins dominate the action.
Collins picked up his second foul with 13 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first half, but thanks to his backcourt running mate, the Jayhawks hardly missed him.
Taylor scored 9 of his 11 points during that crucial stretch, which helped No. 23 KU take a 41-30 lead to halftime. Collins, not to be outdone, returned to the lineup at the nine-minute mark and led the Jayhawks with 14 points.
Kansas finished the half on a 10-2 run after letting the Orange climb back to within three, giving the near-sellout crowd at the Sprint Center plenty to cheer about. The KU fans may have been louder during Tuesday night’s first half than during the 2008 Big 12 Tournament.
They were at their loudest during Taylor’s pristine four minutes, when he scored on a 3-pointer and then followed that up with a steal on the other end. Taylor raced with Flynn down the floor, then lost Flynn with a nifty spin move and dropped in a layup to give the Jayhawks a 20-10 lead.
After being outrebounded handily against Washington on Monday night, the Jayhawks hold a 20-15 edge on the Orange through one half.