Running out of time is hardest on Boschee

Kansas guard's mistake in college finale gives him dubious distinction

Maryland 97 - Kansas 88

Final Four

March 31, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Jeff Boschee could barely finish a sentence, his voice choked with emotion, his eyes filled with tears.

The Kansas guard played an important role in the beginning, middle and end of last night's 97-88 defeat to Maryland in the NCAA tournament semifinals at the Georgia Dome.

At the start, Boschee was hitting three-pointers and lifting the Jayhawks to a 13-2 lead.

In the middle, he seemed to have problems staying with Juan Dixon as the Terrapins took control.

And in the end, it was Boschee leading a furious comeback from a 20-point deficit only to call a timeout that Kansas didn't have, allowing Maryland to regain its composure, stretch its lead and eventually move on to tomorrow's championship game against Indiana.

"It was a valiant effort on our part," said Boschee, who finished his last game at Kansas with 17 points. "We didn't give up. We had a lot of fun all season. That's the closeness of this team. That's why it's so hard to take."

Junior All-American Drew Gooden finished with decent statistics - 15 points and nine rebounds - but the numbers were deceptive. After getting his first three shots blocked, Gooden scored only four points in the first half and didn't hit his first shot in the second half until Maryland's lead was up to 17.

"They really set the tone early with those blocks," said Nick Collison, whose second-half foul trouble led in part to Maryland's stretching a seven-point lead to as many as 20 with 6:09 remaining.

"People talked about it being a matchup of our inside games and they really outplayed us."

Asked about the blocked shots, Gooden said: "They didn't have any effect at all. I've had games when I had my shot blocked five times and still scored 25. I couldn't get into my game, I couldn't find my rhythm. I had a bad game on the wrong night. We didn't have our `A' game tonight, and they did."

Last night's defeat added to the litany of NCAA tournaments losses under Roy Williams, leaving the 52-year-old coach on the verge of tears. Though he kept his emotions in check throughout much of his post-game news conference, it was obvious that the loss was shattering.

"I think it was a case of they basically played better than we did," Williams said. "We made some mistakes. We missed some shots. ... Then all of a sudden it's an 18-point game. Then I was about as proud of my team as I've ever been in my entire life. They kept believing."

And they realized it was over.

It happened after a three by Gooden cut Maryland's lead to 92-88 with 20 seconds left. A second later, as the Jayhawks were about to set up in their press, something that had bothered Maryland immensely in the latter stages of the second half, Boschee called for a timeout.

While Dixon made only one of two free throws, Boschee fouled Byron Mouton after a Maryland timeout. Mouton made both free throws to extend the lead, and Boschee missed a desperation three that was rebounded by Maryland forward Chris Wilcox.

It was then that junior guard Kirk Hinrich realized that his season was over.

"They're a great team," Hinrich said of the Terps. "We had a bit of a lead but they were killing us on the boards. We kept coming back and hitting big shots, but I knew it would be a long shot [for Kansas to win]. I feel for us all, nobody worse than anybody else."

That might not have been true.

"I've played a lot of minutes with Jeff Boschee," Hinrich said.

While the nucleus of the team returns - unless Gooden leaves early for the NBA - the one player who won't be back in Lawrence next season will be Boschee. The Big 12 Conference's career three-point shot leader, Boschee came up big for the Jayhawks early and late last night.

That's what hurt Boschee the most, the thought of never putting on a Kansas uniform again.

"Life goes on, there's more to life than basketball," Boschee said. "But it's not always fun when your season is over."

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