Langford first rate as `third option' for Kansas with 23

His defense also strong

Williams proud of distance covered after 3-3 start


NCAA Tournament

April 06, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS - The Marquette Golden Eagles probably figured by containing seniors Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich, they stood a decent chance of playing in tomorrow night's NCAA championship game.

Marquette accomplished neither task during a miserable night that ended with a 94-61 rout by Kansas, but the player who did more damage than any other Jayhawk was 6-foot-4 sophomore guard/forward Keith Langford.

Langford scored a game-high 23 points on 11-for-14 shooting, matching his third-highest scoring output of the season in a team-high 32 minutes. He also played excellent defense against Marquette All-America guard Dwyane Wade and Golden Eagles forward Scott Merritt.

And Langford's first-half performance - 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, one turnover and 8-for-10 shooting - energized the Jayhawks as much as anything.

And yet, Langford, despite averaging 13.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in conference play, was only good enough to make honorable mention in the Big 12.

"You need a third option scoring all the time," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "Keith has really supplied that for us and has done a great job. Sometimes he is overlooked, I don't think there's any question. I was really surprised he didn't make second- or third-team all-conference this year, because I think he's that level of player for us."

Said Langford: "I just felt there was a certain determination from everybody. Everyone was so confident. Everyone was determined to come out here and do what we've been talking about all year."

Savoring turnaround

Kansas reached the 30-victory plateau for the sixth time in school history. It also was the fifth time the Jayhawks have won at least 30 during the 15-year tenure of Williams, who has never won a national championship.

The Jayhawks, who have gone to four Final Fours under Williams, get a crack at their second NCAA final under Williams. Kansas lost to Duke in the championship game 12 years ago.

Williams savored the moment last night. He thought about the Jayhawks' 3-3 start, about the midseason loss of sophomore forward Wayne Simien to a shoulder injury and about the rush of momentum the Jayhawks are riding after thrashing Marquette.

"I still have on my desk the headline of the article about the biggest disappointment this year, it's Kansas," said Williams, recalling the 3-3 start. "This is my 25th year as a college coach. You have dreams with each and every team you coach that you might possibly be able to accomplish. We're going to try to work as hard as we can to see if we can make those dreams come true."

Present painful enough

Wade wanted no part of a post-game question concerning his immediate future. He is expected to enter the NBA draft early and is considered a likely top-five pick.

But in the wake of last night's 33-point loss to Kansas, Wade said the thought of moving on to the professional ranks was far from his mind.

"I don't live for the future. Right now, I'm living for the present," Wade said after a 19-point, six-rebound, four-assist effort that was no factor in a one-sided affair. "I just want to get back in the locker room with my teammates."

Comedown for Diener

Marquette sophomore point guard Travis Diener had taken care of the ball splendidly throughout the NCAA tournament before last night. Coming into the Kansas game, Diener had committed four turnovers in four games spanning 143 minutes.

But he never got untracked against the Jayhawks. Besides missing 10 of 11 shots and finishing with five points, he turned the ball over eight times.

Crean's mother falls ill

After interviews following the Golden Eagles' loss, Marquette coach Tom Crean learned his mother had been taken to a New Orleans hospital after complaining of numbness and tingling in her arms during the game.

He immediately went to the nearby hospital, where Marjorie Crean was listed in good condition. She was to stay overnight for observation.

Et cetera

Last night's victory marked the 12th straight by Kansas in tournament play against a lower seed. The Jayhawks, who won the West Regional as a No. 2 seed, have not lost to a lower seed since No. 8 Rhode Island beat the top-seeded Jayhawks in the second round of the 1998 tournament. ... Despite shooting just 3-for-16 from three-point range, Marquette nearly broke an NCAA tournament record for three-point shooting. The Golden Eagles shot 49.4 percent from beyond the arc. Kansas holds the record of 51.9 percent set in 1993.

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