DENVER - If this year's NCAA tournament was lacking for frantic last-second finishes and overtime struggles, the semifinals of the West Regional at McNichols Arena last night took care of that.
Playing the role of featured heavyweights, Kansas and Arizona each threw potential knockout punches at one another. Both got up off the floor, until the Jayhawks knocked the Wildcats out of the tournament for good.
Kansas scored seven straight points down the stretch, including a three-point shot by senior guard Jerod Haase with 35.9 seconds to go, to lift the second-seeded Jayhawks past the third-seeded Wildcats, 83-80.
After Haase's three-pointer gave Kansas an 81-79 lead, forward Ben Davis missed for the Wildcats. Jayhawks point guard Jacque Vaughn was fouled and made a pair of free throws with 9.1 seconds left. Arizona's Michael Dickerson missed a jumper, but Joe McLean was fouled going for the rebound with 3.6 seconds left.
McLean made the first free throw, purposely missed the second and somehow wound up with the ball in his hands. But his back-to-the-basket heave from the foul line missed everything, and he needed a three-pointer to tie the game, anyway.
Kansas will play fourth-seeded Syracuse tomorrow for the right to go to the Final Four.
"I think both teams left it all on the floor," said Arizona coach Lute Olson, whose team had led by as many as 12 in the first half and trailed by 12 in the second half. "Sometimes you're going to win and sometimes you're going to lose."
The Jayhawks fell behind by as many as 12, 33-21, with 7: 32 left in the first half. But led by Haase's hot shooting, Kansas scored 14 straight points in a 20-6 run to take a 41-39 halftime lead.
Trailing 72-60, Arizona scored eight straight points in a 13-2 run that cut the Kansas lead to 74-73, with 3: 24 to play.
Dickerson (21 points) gave the Wildcats the lead with 2: 52 left.
"I thought we were giving in to being a little tired," said Kansas coach Roy Williams.
But the Jayhawks got a second, and final, wind. Trailing 79-76, Kansas cut it to one on a pair of free throws by Scot Pollard with 1: 08 left and took the lead for good on the three by Haase. It was his first basket of the second half. "With about four minutes to go," Haase said, "I told myself that this was just a basketball game a very big basketball game and just relax."
He might have been the only one in McNichols Arena who did last night.
Pub Date: 3/23/96