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NCAA TOURNAMENTS | BIG 12 TOURNAMENT

Kansas finally seals the deal

March 12, 2007|From the Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — As Coach Bill Self cut down the nets to commemorate Kansas' second consecutive Big 12 tournament title, a shout came from the crowd: "And now a national championship!"

After surviving another stellar effort by Texas' Kevin Durant, the second-ranked Jayhawks appear primed to make a run at another set of nets.

"Our confidence level is pretty high right now," Kansas guard Brandon Rush said. "Just making big plays at the right time."

Sherron Collins scored 20 points, and Rush and Julian Wright each had 19 points to help Kansas rally from a 22-point deficit to beat Texas, 88-84, in overtime in the Big 12 championship game Sunday and earn a top seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Durant, a freshman, matched his career high with 37 points but took only two shots and did not score in overtime.

"I don't want to play him again," Self said.

The only chance for a rematch would be in the NCAA title game, with Kansas top-seeded on one half of the bracket and Texas fourth-seeded on the opposite side. Kansas enters the tournament on a season-best 11-game winning streak. It has lost in the tournament's first round the last two seasons.

Russell Robinson made a jumper to put Kansas (30-4) on top, 83-81, with 2:19 left in the extra period, and Wright added a free throw to push the lead to three. D.J. Augustin had a three-point attempt and a runner in the lane blocked on consecutive Texas possessions, and Darnell Jackson's two free throws extended Kansas' lead to 86-81 with 13.2 seconds left.

A.J. Abrams made a three-pointer to give No. 15 Texas (24-9) one last chance, but Robinson made two foul shots with 5.3 seconds left to secure the win. Durant's final shot -- a three-pointer from the right wing -- caromed away with two seconds left.

"That's one of the best games I've ever been a part of. That comeback in Lawrence paled in comparison," said Self, whose team erased a 16-point deficit to beat Texas a week earlier.

Mario Chalmers -- who made the tying three-pointer with 15 seconds left to force overtime -- contributed 17 points for Kansas, which has won five Big 12 tournament titles.

Two days after rallying from 20 points down against Baylor in the biggest comeback in Big 12 tournament history, the Longhorns gave up an even bigger lead.

"I thought a lot of good things happened here this week," Texas Coach Rick Barnes said. "We're disappointed, but it is over and done with, and we will move on to next week."

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