Cinderella wears orange and blue

Bison make history with upset win over Kansas

Of Hoop Time

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Davey used a slingshot. Bucknell used a hook shot.

The end result was pretty much the same; a giant fell and a story that will be told for ages was born.

Bucknell’s 64-63 win over Kansas last night in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament might not have been of Biblical proportion. But it was as close as it comes in basketball.

Kansas is one of the storied programs in all of college hoops. James Naismith didn’t invent the game in Lawrence. But he was the Jayhawks first coach back in 1898. Since then Kansas has been in the NCAA tournament 34 times, with a pair of national championship trophies.

Bucknell has a basketball history of its own. In fact, the Bison have been playing the game even longer than KU. Only Yale and Minnesota have been hooping it up as long as Bucknell, which began its program two years before Naismith arrived on the prairie.

But Bucknell’s program has never approached Kansas’ level of success. Before this season, only two other BU teams had made it to the dance, both visits resulting in quick, lopsided exits.

Teams in Kansas’ league, the Big 12, entered this postseason with a combined 235 tournament wins, including four championships and 30 top four finishes. No team from the Patriot League had ever won an NCAA Tournament game.

That all changed when McNaughton banked home a hook shot with eight seconds left, capping a big offensive night for the 6-11 sophomore from Germany, who finished with 14 points.

“We wanted to go inside,” said McNaughton. “I got the ball and I thought ‘just make the shot.’ It came off the backboard and rimmed in somehow. I don’t know how it went in.”

That McNaughton made the shot was hardly a surprise. As has been the case all season, the 6-11 sophomore was virtually unstoppable when he got the ball down low against single coverage. Whether he was spinning past a defender to drive the baseline for a reverse layup, or stepping back to pop a short little jumper, Kansas had no answer for McNaughton, who went 6-for-7 from the field.

What was surprising when Kansas elected to play straight man-to-man against McNaughton with a 1-point lead and the clock winding down, even if the one man guarding McNaughton was All-America center Wayne Simien.

Even though Bucknell shot the ball well in the second half, hitting 12-of-23 (52 percent), including 5 three-pointers, it would have seemed sensible to force someone other than McNaughton to beat you after Kansas took advantage of an intentional foul call on Charles Lee to score 4 straight points for a 63-62 lead with 24 seconds to go.

Maybe Kansas coach Bill Self thought Simien could handle McNaughton in man coverage. Maybe he was worried McNaughton would kick the ball out to Kevin Bettencourt if Kansas doubled down. Bettencourt, after all, had caused considerable damage, hitting 5 treys for 19 points.

“(Bettencourt) definitely hit some huge shots,” said Kansas forward Christian Moody. “It seemed like anytime we would make a run, he would hit a three and take it away from us.”

Maybe Self explained the decision to the Kansas beat writers who scurried to the KU locker room in search of quotes after the Jayhawks declined to appear in the media room after the game.

That was not the only thing Self might have been asked to explain. He also might have been asked why he waited until the last seven minutes to start pressing a Bucknell team that seemed vulnerable to full court pressure in its conference final against Holy Cross, a game you would expect Kansas to have watched on tape.

Truth be told, it is hard to say how much a difference it might have made if Kansas had pressed more. Bucknell didn’t commit a single turnover in the last seven minutes against the pressure and coughed the ball up only 9 times all night. It was just the second time all season that the Bison had less than 10 turnovers (the other time as 8 at Army).

Self might also have been asked about his decision to play zone for long stretches in the second half, which, along with the lack of pressure, played into Bucknell’s hands by allowing the Bison to turn it into a halfcourt game played at the slower, more deliberate pace Bucknell prefers.

The loss was a stunning end to the careers of three Kansas seniors who had been to the tournament final two years ago and had made it at least to the round of 8 in each of their first three seasons. If not for the efforts of two of the three, Kansas might not have even been close.

Simien was as unstoppable as McNaughton, hitting 9-of-14 field goals and 6-of-8 at the foul line for a game-high 24 points. Michael Lee, who started in place of the ailing Keith Langford, added 18 for Kansas.

It was the seniors hands Kansas put the ball in twice in the last eight seconds with the game on the line. But neither Langford, nor Simien, was able to convert against a Bucknell defense that held the Jayhawks a dozen points below their season average. After shooting nearly 48 percent from the field all season, Kansas made only 20-of-46 (43.5 percent) against Bucknell, including a 33 percent (8-of-24) second half.

Langford, Kentucky’s second-leading scorer, was obviously hampered by the ankle he sprained two weeks ago in JU’s regular season finale. Langford was 1-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-3 from three-point range.

One of his six misses came when he tried to drive through a crowd in the lane with three seconds left.

Bucknell freshman John Griffin grabbed the miss and was fouled. Griffin missed the front of the one-and-one, giving the Jayhawks one last chance with 2.4 seconds remaining.

After a timeout, Kansas tried a log pass to Simien, who drew front iron on his turnaround jumper from the foul line.

“That was a tough shot, a turnaround with 6-11 Chris McNaughton in his face,” said Bettencourt.

McNaughton and Bettencourt were not the only ones who had big games for Bucknell. Charles Lee finished 15-points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals. Abe Badmus was spectacular with the ball, dishing out 11 assists without a single turnover. Donald Brown grabbed six rebounds, and his 6 points, along with another half-dozen from Chris Niesz, allowed the Bucknell bench to outscore the Kansas reserves 12-10.

Freshman Darren Mastropaolo also came up big for Bucknell. Mastropaolo only scored 2 points, and he struggled to finish offensively on some easy looks close to the basket. But he played tremendous defense on Simien, especially in the second half. Yes, Simien still had a big night. But Simien might have done far more damage if he had not had Mastropaolo banging away at him most of the second half, after McNaughton got in foul trouble.

“Our big kids battled Simien all night long,” Flannery said. “We really made him work for everything all night long.”

In the end, that, as much as McNaughton’s presence in his grill, might have been the determining factor. Simien, who played 35 minutes, the most of any KU player, drew front iron on his final shot. That is usually a sign of fatigue.

His season ended, Simien will have plenty of time to rest now. Bucknell, though, will be back in the gym this afternoon at 4:45 to get ready to take on Wisconsin Sunday with a berth in the Sweet 16 at stake.
Box score | Sportsticker | AP | Patriot-News | Daily Item
  • Bucknell upset unites fans of Cinderella stories(Sports Illustrated)
  • One shining moment(Sports Illustrated)
  • SHOCK! Kansas comes up short against Bucknell (Knight Ridder Tribune)
  • Langford comes up short in his return (Kansas City Star)
  • Death Knell (Kansas City Star)
  • This team will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons (Kansas City Star)
  • Kansas notebook (Kansas City Star)
  • At least Dr. Naismith didn't live to see this ... (CBS Sportsline)

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