Final Four Recap
by Phil Kasiecki
The national semifinal games had one great game that came down to the final minutes and had many lead changes, and another where one team was in the lead for most of the game and took over late in the game, only to have to hold off a furious comeback by the opposing team in the final minutes.
Indiana pulled off the upset of Oklahoma in a dandy game that featured many lead changes and where neither team led by very much at any juncture. The scrappy Hoosiers made many big plays down the stretch and got a huge effort from their bench in winning this game.
In the early going, things did not look good for the Hoosiers, as Jared Jeffries picked up two early fouls and was relatively ineffective. Aaron McGhee (22 points) had his way with Jeffries and anyone else the Hoosiers tried on him, but he was his own worst enemy as he was in foul trouble for much of the game and fouled out with under six minutes left to play.
No one could realistically expect the Hoosiers to match their shooting in the regional final, but one reason they struggled in the first half was that they were just 2 of 7 from behind the arc while Jeffries had to sit with foul trouble. Tom Coverdale struggled in the first half as well, and with Jeffries on the bench, the Sooners got their share of second chance points.
In the second half, the Hoosiers hit all six of their three-point shots, and executed better than the Sooners on all levels. The Sooners struggled on offense aside from McGhee continuing to have a field night regardless of who guarded him.
Indiana received a huge lift from its bench, led by Jeffrey Newton. Playing in his hometown, Newton came out of nowhere to be the game’s MVP. Donald Perry was excellent backing up Coverdale at the point, scoring 10 points and making key plays. A.J. Moye, also a Georgia native, gave the Hoosiers a lift with 9 points before leaving with an injury. This was a large reason why Jeffries’ foul trouble and 8 point effort were not costly to the Hoosiers.
Oklahoma, which shot 36% from the field, got very little at the offensive end from anyone aside from McGhee and Ebi Ere, who was quiet in the second half. Hollis Price was just 1 of 11 from the field and Quannas White missed all five of his field goal attempts. The Hoosiers did an excellent job on Price, not letting him get open looks and at times denying him the ball.
During the game, CBS commentator Billy Packer on several occasions made light of the fact that Oklahoma was not guarding Coverdale until half court most of the game, thus not making him work. He was a relative non-factor, but going after him might have disrupted the Hoosiers’ offense and created more chances for easy baskets.
We recap the battle of the one-seeds – Kansas vs. Maryland.
In the other semifinal, Kansas jumped out to a 13-2 lead early, but Maryland came alive and later took over the game before holding off the Jayhawks in the final minutes by a 97-88 score.
The big difference in this game was the performance of key players on each team. Kansas did not get a good outing from its top players, while Maryland did.
Drew Gooden struggled throughout the game and was in foul trouble, but he wasn’t alone. Kirk Hinrich was also in foul trouble and committed five turnovers, while Jeff Boschee was 6 of 16 from the field and did little in the first half. Nick Collison, who led the Jayhawks with 21 points and 10 rebounds, was in foul trouble in the first half, though it was never a concern in the second half.
The Terrapins, meanwhile, needed big games from a couple of players in part because Lonnie Baxter was nowhere to be found on the court in this one. Baxter, the regional MVP, played just 14 minutes before fouling out with just four points and seven rebounds. Chris Wilcox (18 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Tahj Holden picked up the slack nicely for the Terrapins, as their frontcourt depth was a big difference in this game. Juan Dixon had a huge game as well as a game-high 33 points on 10 of 18 shooting, several baskets coming at critical junctures of the game.
Though they led for most of the game, the Terrapins never really shook the Jayhawks until about halfway through the second half. After a Boschee three-pointer made it 60-55, the Terrapins scored ten unanswered points as part of a 16-4 run, and Dixon would later give the Terrapins their largest lead (83-63) on a three-pointer with 6:10 left to play.
But the Jayhawks would not go quietly. With under five minutes to play, Aaron Miles made the first of six free throws in a run of nine straight points, and Boschee hit a three-pointer with 2:20 left to get the Jayhawks within five at 87-82. Gooden would make it 92-88 on a three-pointer with 25 seconds left, but they were hit with a technical foul for calling a timeout they did not have.