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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 14, 2010

Top-ranked Kansas rolls to Big 12 tournament title


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen struggles to gain control of the ball while being guarded by Kansas forward Marcus Morris.

AMELIA C. WARDEN | Associated Press

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. Snip by snip, the Kansas Jayhawks took down another championship net.

So what if there are bigger goals still ahead.

Winning a title feels good anytime, especially against a rival in an atmosphere like this.

Balanced and sharp when it needed to be, No. 1 Kansas won its seventh Big 12 tournament title last night, holding off No. 9 Kansas State, 72-64, inside an ear-ringing Sprint Center.

"Having a chance to beat, in our estimation, one of the best teams in the country in a great atmosphere against your state rival in Kansas City makes it a little more special than if we'd been playing anybody else," Kansas coach Bill Self said.

Taking the stage in one of the biggest sporting events in Kansas City's history, the Jayhawks (32-2) wore down the Wildcats defensively and came to life briefly on offense in the second half to beat their rivals for the third time this season.

The Jayhawks won a sixth straight regular-season Big 12 title and capped that with a gritty three-game run through one of the toughest conference tournaments in the country, a combination that'll likely earn them a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament when the brackets are announced today.

Marcus Morris had 18 points, Tyrel Reed added 15 and Kansas held the Wildcats to 34 percent shooting to keep the Sunflower Showdown a lopsided affair with its 41st win six in the Big 12 tournament in 43 games since 1994. Sherron Collins added 12 points and seven assists for the Jayhawks.

"I think we have some momentum going into the NCAA tournament," said Reed, who hit both 3-point attempts and was 7 of 9 on free throws. "We'll celebrate tonight and starting tomorrow start focusing on our first-round opponent."

Kansas State (26-7) had visions of ending its conference tournament title drought at 30 years against the one team it wants to beat the most. The Wildcats gave themselves a shot behind a scrappy defensive effort, but didn't have an answer when Kansas made its second-half push.

Now, Kansas State goes into Selection Sunday hoping its school-record 26 wins and top-10 strength of schedule will be enough to sway the committee into giving it a high seed.

Denis Clemente had 17 points, Jamar Samuels 14 and Jacob Pullen added 13 for K-State.

"We went to the championship and went nose-to-nose with the bear," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "We were right there and just couldn't finish it off."

The two regular-season meetings were among the biggest in the rivalry's 103-year history.

The opening act was in the Little Apple, where Kansas squeezed out a taut overtime victory that was among the best games of the college basketball season.

Part II was pre-billed as one of the greatest Sunflower Showdowns ever, the teams ranked in the top 5 against each other for the first time in 52 years. It was a bit of a flop, Kansas winning easily in Collins' Allen Fieldhouse finale.

The final act well, barring a fourth in the NCAA tournament was a rivalry intertwined with bigger prizes: another Big 12 tournament title for Kansas, K-State's first ever, a probable No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament on the line, big-time bragging rights.

Even with less than 24 hours of buildup, it was a monumental event, one of the biggest in Kansas City sports history. Maybe not on the level of Danny and the Miracles winning a national title for Kansas at Kemper Arena in 1988 or the I-70 World Series won by the Royals three years earlier, but a top-fiver for sure.

"There won't be a better atmosphere in America for a final (of a) conference tournament," Self said.

AMERICA EAST

VERMONT 83, BOSTON 70

Marqus Blakely scored 24 points and the Catamounts (25-9) took an early lead and never trailed in beating the host Terriers (19-13) at Burlington, Vt. to win the America East championship and an automatic NCAA tournament bid in Burlington, Vt.

ATLANTIC COAST

NO. 4 DUKE 77, MIAMI 74

Kyle Singler scored 27 points and the top-seeded Blue Devils (28-5) used a 15-0 run for a 58-42 lead with 11:52 left before holding off a rally by the Hurricanes (20-13) to gain a berth in the finals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at Greensboro, N.C.

GEORGIA TECH 57, NORTH CAROLINA STATE 54

Derrick Favors had 17 points and eight rebounds, and his short jumper put the Yellow Jackets (22-11) ahead to stay, 47-46, with 3:15 left, in turning back the Wolfpack (19-15) to reach the tournament final.

ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE

NO. 17 TEMPLE 57, RHODE ISLAND 44

Ryan Brooks scored 16 points and the top-seeded Owls (28-5) opened with a 15-2 run in cruising past the Rams (23-9) to advance to the final of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament at Atlantic City.

RICHMOND 89, NO. 24 XAVIER 85

Kevin Anderson scored 27 points, David Gonzalvez added 26, including a 3-pointer to start overtime for a 76-73 lead and the Spiders (26-7) never trailed again in beating the second-seeded Musketeers (24-7) to reach the final.

BIG EAST CONFERENCE

NO. 7 WEST VIRGINIA 60, NO. 22 GEORGETOWN 58

Da'Sean Butler hit his second game-winner in three days, this time a basket in the lane with 4.2 second left, than lifted the Mountaineers (27-6) over the Hoyas (23-10) for their first Big East tournament championship.

BIG TEN CONFERENCE

NO. 5 OHIO STATE 88, ILLINOIS 81

Conference player of the year Evan Turner scored 12 of his 31 points after regulation, leading the top-seeded Buckeyes (26-7) past the Illini (19-14) in double-overtime to reach the final of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.

MINNESOTA 69, NO. 6 PURDUE 42

Ralph Sampson III scored 13 points and the sixth-seeded Golden Gophers (21-12) held the second-seeded Boilermakers (27-5) to their worst first half ever in taking a 37-11 lead en route to reaching the conference final for the first time.

BIG WEST CONFERENCE

UC SANTA BARBARA 69, LONG BEACH STATE 64

Orlando Johnson had 20 points, five rebounds and four assists to lead the top-seeded Gauchos (20-9) over the third-seeded 49ers (17-16) to capture the Big West Conference tournament championship at Anaheim, Calif.

CONFERENCE USA

HOUSTON 81, NO. 25 UTEP 73

Kelvin Lewis scored 28 points, including a 3-pointer for a 71-70 lead with 3:15 left and the Cougars (19-15) never trailed again in beating the Miners (26-6) in the Conference USA tournament title game at Tulsa, Okla. It is Houston's first NCAA tournament berth in 18 years.

MID-AMERICAN

OHIO 81, AKRON 75

Freshman D.J. Cooper scored 23 points and the ninth-seeded Bobcats (21-14) became the lowest-seeded team to win the Mid-American Conference tournament title by beating defending champion and the third-seeded Zips (24-10) in Cleveland.

MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC

MORGAN STATE 68, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 61

Kevin Thompson had 18 points and 10 rebounds as the top-seeded Bears (27-9) held off the Bulldogs (18-14) in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title game at Winston-Salem, N.C. to claim their second consecutive NCAA tournament berth.

MOUNTAIN WEST

SAN DIEGO STATE 55, UNLV 45

Kawhi Leonard scored 16 points, grabbed a career-best 21 rebounds and sank all eight of his free throws in the final two minutes as the Aztecs (25-8) fended off Runnin' Rebels (25-8) to capture the Mountain West Conference title yesterday in Las Vegas.

PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE

WASHINGTON 79, CALIFORNIA 75

Quincy Pondexter scored 18 points, Elston Turner hit a 3-pointer for a 71-68 lead and Venoy Overton made two free throws with 2.1 seconds left as the third-seeded Huskies (24-9) beat the Golden Bears (23-10) to win the Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles.

SOUTHEASTERN

NO. 2 KENTUCKY 74, NO. 15 TENNESSEE 45

DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and 15 rebounds, powering the top-seeded Wildcats (31-2) to an easy semifinal victory over the Volunteers (25-8) in the Southeastern Conference tournament at Nashville, Tenn.

MISSISSIPPI STATE 62, NO. 20 VANDERBILT 52

Barry Stewart scored 14 points and Phil Turner's 3-pointer broke an 11-all tie and the Bulldogs (23-10) never trailed again in beating the Commodores (24-8) to advance to their second straight SEC championship game.

SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE

SAM HOUSTON STATE 64, STEPHEN F. AUSTIN 48

Gilberto Clavell scored 21 points and the top-seeded Bearkats (25-7) never trailed in beating the Lumberjacks (23-9) at Katy, Texas for the Southland Conference tournament championship and their second NCAA tournament berth, but first since 2003.

SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC

ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF 50, TEXAS SOUTHERN 38

Tavaris Washington scored 14 points and Allen Smith had 11 as the Golden Lions (17-15) earned their first NCAA tournament berth by beating the Tigers (17-16) in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game at Bossier City, La.

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