for this game

Kansas needs late stand to hold off Curry, Davidson

Mar 31, 2008 - 2:17 AM DETROIT (Ticker) -- It was painful, but Kansas coach Bill Self is finally going to the Final Four.

Sasha Kaun and Mario Chalmers had 13 points apiece as Kansas survived a last-second upset bid by No. 10 Davidson for a 59-57 victory in the Midwest Regional final on Sunday.

With the win, the Jayhawks (35-3) became the fourth top seed to advance to the Final Four along with UCLA, North Carolina and Memphis, signaling the first time that has happened in the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas will face North Carolina and former coach Roy Williams on Saturday.

"That means a lot to us. It makes us part of history," Chalmers said. "We wanted to come in here and be part of history and be part of our first Final Four, and we were able to do that tonight."

The win also ended the struggles in the "Elite Eight" for Self, who had been 0-4 in games with a trip to Final Four on the line - including two previous with Kansas. He knelt to the floor in relief when the game ended.

"Trust me, I was on both knees," Self said. "Instead of jubilation, it was probably more relief. You picture the way you win a big game like that would be you make a shot, you celebrate or something happens and you're able to go congratulate all your coaches and players. This was not one of those deals."

After Sherron Collins' missed 3-pointer with 21 seconds left capped a shaky final possession for the Jayhawks, shooting star Stephen Curry could not get off a shot in the closing moments as Kansas swarmed him.

Instead, Davidson's Jason Richards took a desperation 3-pointer from well above the key that just missed the left side of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

"It was designed to be a flat ball screen at the top of the key to get penetration," Curry said. "But they had four guards out there and they just switched. Kind of defeated the purpose of the play. I gave them a pump fake to try to get a look, but I was off balance when (Brandon Rush) fell down. So I saw Jay (Richards) open at the top of the key, so I swung it to him. He put it up. I wished it went in, but it didn't."

Getting a chance for the final shot with 16 seconds left, the Wildcats had a questionable start to the possession by allowing Curry to bring the ball up instead of letting him get open without it, possibly running him off a screen like Self expected.

"It surprised me that Stephen brought the ball up," Self said. "I figured they would run him off screens to try to get him to catch it but if you do that, there's a chance he won't touch it. So they made sure they put the ball in their best player's hands.

"We did a good job of switching. At the end when Richards shot the ball, from my view, it looked like it had a good chance to go in. Of course it was wide left, then the horn blew and it was like, Why is the horn going off? I can't believe 16 seconds has already passed. Our guys did do a good job there late."

The missed shot by Richards ended a magical run for Davidson (29-7), which was attempting to be the second double-digit seed in the last three years to reach the national semifinals along with George Mason.

"I couldn't be prouder of a group of men," Wildcats coach Bob McKillop said. "I think they represented Davidson with the greatest poise, with the greatest commitment of self, and with a remarkable run in this very, very compelling sporting event."

Brandon Rush added 12 points, including two free throws that capped a 12-2 run and gave Kansas a 59-53 advantage with 1:15 remaining. The Jayhawks did not score again, forcing them into that last-second defensive stand to hold off the Wildcats.

Curry scored 25 points on 9-of-25 shooting for Davidson, which saw its 25-game winning streak snapped. Although he failed to score at least 30 points for the first time in four games in the NCAAs, the sophomore guard was named the region's Most Outstanding Player.

"We made him take tough shots tonight," Rush said of Kansas' defense on Curry. "We forced him into some bad shots but he still managed to get his points, 25, that's his average. I think we did a pretty good job on him tonight."

"I was really comfortable in my role just coming off screens and finding shots," said Curry, who missed eight straight 3-pointers in the second half. "Regardless of who was defending me, I was going to stick to the same game plan, the same system."

The chances looked good that Curry and Davidson could reach the pinnacle for "mid-major" programs, especially after taking a 49-45 lead on a 3-pointer by Bryant Barr with 9:35 remaining.

It was the third basket from the arc in a span of just under 2 1/2 minutes for Barr, who scored all 11 of his points after the break.

"We expected to win. We didn't come here content or satisfied," McKillop said. "We expected to win. This has been a 12-month mission. It came down to one final play. That's the beauty of this game that we play."

Kaun's layup cut that deficit to two points with 8:51 left, but Curry answered back with a jumper.

Yet, the Wildcats could not hold on and the Jayhawks eventually wore them down inside.

A layup by Chalmers cut Kansas' deficit to 51-49 with 7:17 to play and Collins gave the Big 12 power the lead for good moments with a 3-pointer with 6:35 remaining.

Collins was off the mark on another jumper with less than 2 1/2 minutes to play, but Kaun grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He split two free throws for a 57-53 lead.

It was one of six rebounds, including three offensive, for Kaun, who finished a perfect 6-of-6 from the field.

"Coach Self was kind of emphasizing before the game, we're bigger than them, we need to get the ball inside, take advantage of the size," Kaun said. "I thought the guards did a pretty good job of getting us the ball and using that height advantage to our game."

Davidson then had a golden opportunity to retake the lead with under 90 seconds left after Richards stripped the ball from Collins and found Curry open on the left wing for a 3-pointer in transition.

However, Curry, who finished 4-of-16 from the arc, missed the shot and Rush grabbed the rebound and was fouled. The junior guard made both free throws for a six-point lead.

Despite Curry's miss, the Wildcats made another surge, with Thomas Sander hitting a free throw and Curry burying a 3-pointer off an inbounds with 54 seconds to play after the Jayhawks could not come up with the rebound off a missed free throw by Sander.

Kansas then struggled on its final possession and Collins was forced to rush a 3-point attempt from the top of the key as the shot clock wound down. He hit the left side of the rim and Russell Robinson could not chase down the rebound, giving Davidson the final chance in the game.

Richards had seven points and nine assists for the Wildcats, but missed all four of his 3-point attempts. The senior guard was 3-of-8 from the arc in the win over Wisconsin on Friday.