This morning, after dropping the girls off at school, I went around the corner to fill my vehicle up with gas. I started the pump and jumped back into the car to avoid the cold. Seconds later I heard a honk. Then another. And finally a third, along with a muffled yell that sounded like my name.
I looked around and there was a friend from St. P’s who had just pulled into the next pump. He just looked at me and shook his head.
I can’t think of a better way to sum up what happened last night in Lawrence, KS. A shake of the head. A shrug of the shoulders.
As I said in an email to a friend who was in Europe for business and missed the Kansas-West Virginia game, that was batshit crazy.
Down 18, looking absolutely lifeless and inept, to a team that was missing its two best players. And then we lose our best player just before halftime. Of all the epic comebacks at Allen Fieldhouse over the years, this seemed the least likely.
Back in 1995, UCLA led by 19 in the first half. But it was A) early, B) KU had a ton of talent and C) it only took KU daring UCLA to shoot from outside, something they absolutely could not do, to change the game.
In that epic 2012 game against Missouri, the Tigers led by 19 early in the second half. That was a great MU team, playing with insane amounts of confidence. Odds seemed awfully low that day that KU would come back. However, they had a first team All-American, terrific talent at every other spot on the floor, and there was this underlying feeling that there was no way KU was going out like that against MU.
Even earlier this year, Florida led by 18 in the first half. But that’s not a very good Florida team and you just had the sense that once KU settled down and ran offense and guarded, the tide would turn.
But last night? No way. With Perry Ellis injured in the locker room and already short Cliff Alexander, KU was going to battle the best offensive rebounding team in the country with Jamari Traylor, Landon Lucas, and Hunter Michelson? Nuh uh. And KU’s guards all looked gassed in the first half. How could they both guard well enough to slow down the Mountaineers and still have energy on the offensive end?
This was not meant to be.
By halftime I had yelled, thrown couch cushions, sent angry texts, and hit the ottoman so hard a knuckle was swelling up. When Perry Ellis left the game and went to the locker room, I switched over to the Kentucky-Georgia game.
When the second half began, I decided to watch last week’s episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’d give it 20 minutes and then check the score. I tuned back in right around the 10:00 mark. The lead was still 10 and KU had two-straight fantastic defensive possessions. Which they wasted by taking a bad shot and throwing the ball into the crowd on the other end.
I switched back to UK-UGa.
I watched the local weather.
I checked the game again. Eight point deficit, but another WVU offensive board, off a free throw, turned into another deep 3-pointer.
For the next few minutes I flipped around aimlessly. A few minutes watching any random show that interested me, then back to check the score. Nothing seemed to work. The lead never got below 8, and I never saw KU do anything that made me think they would get closer.
I killed the TV, walked upstairs and turned the furnace down for the night. I crossed the day off the family calendar, checked who had hot lunch on Wednesday, and headed upstairs. I brushed my teeth, changed clothes, and walked toward bed. After setting the alarm on my phone, I checked the score one last time. One minute left, six points.
Well, I thought, I can’t go to bed until it’s over. You know, just in case. So I walked back down to the kitchen. I got lunch boxes out, tossed some school papers into the recycling. Watered the basil plant. One more check of Twitter.
Two point game, 40 seconds left.
I ran into the living room and turned on the TV, jinxes be damned.
From there on, things worked out ok. Devonte’ Graham hit two huge free throws and, in a scene recalling that MU game in 2012, a huge blocked shot preserved the tie and sent the game to overtime.
Hey, I thought, this is the same TV I watched the overtime of the 2008 national championship game on.
Five minutes of game clock later KU had escaped, the eleventh Big 12 title in a row was secured outright, and I sat and laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it.
Clearly I should have switched TVs much earlier in the night.
And then I had to drink a couple more beers to get calmed down. While doing so and following the post-game comments, my buddy in Europe hopped on his phone and we exchanged texts for 20 minutes as I filled him in on what had happened, as best as I could.
Sometime around 2:00 AM I finally went to sleep. After brushing my teeth again, of course.
I’m still not sure how they did it. They didn’t hit a single 3-point shot. Meanwhile West Virginia hit nine. A 27-point difference in 3-point shooting is usually a pretty solid indicator that you’re going to win the game.
But I also read a stat that WVU went something like 27 minutes without hitting a 2-point basket. Basically from before halftime through the end of overtime, all they did was hit threes and free throws. KU played some fantastic defense in the last 25 minutes.
But how does a team that is already offensively challenged at times produce a 25-point turnaround with their best scorer sitting on the bench in sweats?
It doesn’t make sense, but I’m not going to try to figure it out.
Another epic night in the Phog, one that will go down with the Oklahoma game in 1986, the Kentucky game in 1989, the Indiana game in 1993, the UCLA game in 1995, the Oklahoma State game in 2005, and the Missouri game in 2012 as an all-time great.
And another Big 12 title. More about that sometime soon.
- This friend is a North Carolina fan and we have some good-natured back-and-forth after our teams lose. His son, who I’ve coached in soccer a couple times, is in C’s class. When I’m on library duty, he always comes over and asks me how KU is doing, who their next game is against, etc. After the K-State loss a week ago, I got a text from the dad saying that C. was fascinated by the court-storming controversy and would probably ask me about it the next time he saw me. Sure enough, when I was in the library Tuesday, C. came right over and said, “Mr. B, were you sad when KU lost and the K-State fans stormed the court and pushed your players?” He likes to find out if I’m sad after KU loses, or back in October after the World Series ended. I figure it’s a job for his parents to explain the difference between sad and pissed. ↩
- And, like in 2012, fans of the visiting team will argue the block involved a foul. Hey, KU fans weren’t happy with how the game in Morgantown two weeks ago was officiated. We’re even. ↩
- Yes, I think of these things. I rarely watch games on this TV these days. Our basement is A) warmer and B) has a bigger, better screen. ↩
- I’m not sure how accurate this is since, you know, I didn’t watch most of the second half. ↩
- An underrated great Allen Fieldhouse game was the Arizona game in 2003. KU led by 20 early and ended up losing by 17. People who were at that game say it was absolutely insane. And it set up a rather satisfying rematch two months later in Anaheim in the Elite 8. ↩