RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
College basketball fans hoped for an exciting championship game last night, and they got their wish. The University of Kansas beat the University of Memphis 75-68 in overtime to win this year's men's tournament. The fast-paced, dramatic game came down to big plays and big misses as Kansas won its first title in 20 years.
Joining us now is NPR's Tom Goldman.
TOM GOLDMAN: Morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Let's start at the end with the game's really thrilling finish.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, it was absolutely thrilling, especially for the Jayhawks.
And the two teams surged back and forth all night, and that was entertaining enough. But Memphis started pulling away late behind the Tiger's fabulous freshman guard Derrick Rose. And Memphis was up nine points with just over two minutes left. Then Memphis players got careless, by committing fouls and turnover and missing free throws. And Kansas took advantage.
Rose was at the foul line to shoot two free throws with about 10 seconds left. Memphis was up by two. If he sinks both, that probably ices it and Memphis has its first title ever, but he missed the first one, made the second. Kansas pushes the ball up the court, gets the ball in the hands of its best three-point shooter, Mario Chalmers, and he, kaboom, makes it with two seconds left.
Kansas coach Bill Self called it probably the biggest shot in Kansas history. That's quite a history, I should add. The first Kansas coach was James Naismith, the man who invented basketball.
Anyway, Chalmers' bomb ties the score. They go into overtime. Kansas took control early and held on for the win.
MONTAGNE: And those free throws that you mentioned that Memphis missed turned out to be pretty important.
GOLDMAN: Critical. Even while they were racking up an NCAA record, 38 wins this season, the Tigers were awful at the free-throw line. Memphis coach John Calipari had said it really didn't matter because his team could find other ways to win when the game was on the line. Well, maybe that's why Calipari is coach of the runner-up team.
Tigers star guards Rose, who I mentioned, and Chris Douglas-Roberts missed four of five free throws in the last minute of regulation, and that gave Kansas the opening it needed. You know, Rose was quoted after the game saying it really wasn't the free throws; if we'd done things before the free throws, we would've been in good shape. Well, they didn't do those things before, so the free throws would've won them the game.
MONTAGNE: And this game, beginning to end, real nail-biter. How important was that to the men's final?
GOLDMAN: Well, it was big. This tournament is called March Madness because of its crazy unpredictability and the upsets that people love. And there was not so much madness this time around. Forty-two out of the 63 games were decided by 10 or more points, including the two semifinal games this past Saturday, which were both one-sided let-downs, really. So this final between Kansas and Memphis basically saved the tourney's reputation this year.
MONTAGNE: Tom, one more game to go - one more title game to go. Tonight, Stanford and Tennessee play for the women's championship. What should we expect from that game?
GOLDMAN: A couple of Candaces - 6-foot-4-inch Candace Parker of Tennessee. Last year, she led the Lady Vols to their seventh national title. She's been the star of women's college basketball during her years at Tennessee. Very talented. She can dunk the ball.
And then there's Stanford's Candice Wiggins. She's a 5-11 guard, and she's been this year's prominent player. She's led Stanford to its current 23-game winning streak. She's averaging over 27 points per game in this tournament. Of course, there are other key players, but the Candices are the marquee match-up.
Tennessee is women's basketball royalty but really, right now, Stanford is the team playing the best basketball.
MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR's sports correspondent, Tom Goldman.
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