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Kansas Falls To VCU
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

SAN ANTONIO - Scenes from a sad end to a too-short season:

* Tyrel Reed, on the floor after being fouled on a drive but not getting the basket, pounded the court. A three-point play could have made it a five-point game. Reed, an 80 percent foul shooter, made one of two from the line.

* Markieff Morris missed two point-blank shots and his brother Marcus had the rebound stripped away. With 1:11 remaining, a basket would have cut VCU's lead over Kansas to 65-61.

* The clock was at 0:00 and the scoreboard told the tale: VCU 71, Kansas 61. Marcus Morris, the Big 12 Conference player of the year sat alone on the bench, a towel over his head.

This was worse than last year's second-round loss to Northern Iowa. This was a loss to a No. 11 seed with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

"I feel like I let everyone down," Morris said in the tomb-like Kansas locker room.

As Morris finally trudged off the floor, the Rams were gathered on the corner of the court nearest their black-and-gold-clad fans. They were throwing t-shirts to their families, dancing and awaiting the net cutting that follows these kinds of victories.

Instead of a 14th Final Four and a shot at the school's fourth national championship, the Jayhawks head back to Lawrence with their 35-3 record and a season that will be considered a disappointment.

"The thing about it is with the tournament, the finality of it," said Kansas coach Bill Self, who is 1-5 in regional finals. "All losses linger. There's only one time in my coaching career where the wins have felt as good as the losses feel bad. And that's one time."

That was 2008 in the Alamodome when Mario's Miracle helped the Jayhawks defeat Memphis in overtime for the national title.

As the guy in the DirectTV commercials say, for VCU it was "Epic win." The Rams became the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four. VCU was one of the last teams selected as an at-large team and has gone from First Four to Final Four in five victories.

In defeating USC (Pacific-10), Georgetown (Big East), Purdue (Big Ten), Florida State (Atlantic Coast) and Kansas (Big 12), the Rams' weapon of choice has been the dagger three. In five NCAA victories, VCU is 53-of-121 from the arc (43.8 percent) and 67-of-153 (on 2-pointers).

That disparity served the Rams well against the Jayhawks, who had an epic fail shooting effort. For KU, it was the fewest points on the worst 3-point shooting effort (2-for-21, 9.5 percent). The Jayhawks shot 35.5 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from the line.

The Rams credited the "havoc" style preached by their 33-year-old coach Shaka Smart. Their attacking style on offense creates open shots - Kansas helped considerably by dropping off perimeter shooters to try to clog the lane - and a pestering defense.

"I think we wore them out," VCU senior point guard Jamie Rodriguez. "We came right at them in offensive end. If you go back and watch the game I think every time they shot the ball mostly somebody had a hand in their face. Our wings did a great job of contesting shots."

Kansas got few breaks. Some of the Jayhawks' 3-point shots rimmed out, some of their layups trickled off and when they did get to the rack, they couldn't convert.

"It was just one of those days," said Reed, who finished 1-of-9 from the field and missed six of his seven 3-point tries. "The shots weren't falling. You've got to have something to fall back on and that's your defense."

The Jayhawks took a quick 6-0 lead but the Rams answered with a 20-4 run that gave them control they would not relinquish. Jamie Skeen, a 6-9 senior who transferred from Wake Forest, had two 3-pointers during that run. Named the Southwest Regional's most outstanding player, he finished with 26 points. Skeen was 4-of-7 on 3-pointers. He had made four 3-pointers in VCU's four previous NCAA games.

Smart said that at the beginning of the game Kansas was "pistol whipping us" around the basket. Toby Veal, a 6-8 junior, came off the bench to help counter the Morris twins with six points and five rebounds. Along with senior Brandon Rozzell, who celebrated his 22nd birthday with 12 points, VCU had a 22-3 edge in bench points.

Kansas pulled to within 46-44 with 13:13 remaining on Tyshawn Taylor's three-point play. The next 11 KU possessions produced just five points. Still, a Taylor drive made it 57-52 with 5:13 remaining and the game was there for the winning.

Rodriguez, who Smart praises for his mental toughness, answered with a 3-pointer off the dribble, a drive and a dish for a Bradford Burgess 3-pointer and a pass to Burgess for a layup. That made it 65-57 with 1:53 to play. For the brick-shooting Jayhawks, that margin was too great.

"The game was all about style play," said Smart, who last season in his first year at VCU guided the Rams to the College Basketball Insider title. "In the first half, Kansas players were bending over, tugging on their shorts. That's part of our havoc style - getting people winded, getting people fatigued."

Kansas was the last No. 1 seed remaining and had defeated a No. 16, a No. 9 and a No. 12 seed to reach the regional final. "All" that remained was a victory over a No. 11 seed. Now, though, VCU is part of historic Final Four - it's the first time the last weekend has not had a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed.

"We tried really hard and came up empty against a team that was better than us," Self said. "The NCAA Tournament is wild. It's not about seeds, it's about matchups. VCU's got guys who could play for us or for anybody." 

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