NEW ORLEANS — Same story, new night for Kansas. The team that’s been teetering on the edge of the tournament since before it even began is now one of the last two left.
Tyshawn Taylor made two big free throws late, and Thomas Robinson finished with 19 points and eight rebounds Saturday night to lift the Jayhawks to a 64-62 come-from-behind win over Ohio State in the Final Four – a game Kansas led for a grand total of 3 minutes, 48 seconds.
After scoring the first bucket, Kansas didn’t lead again until Travis Releford made two free throws with 2:48 left. That lasted for 11 seconds, but the Jayhawks (32-6), who trailed by as many as 13, overcame another deficit and finally held on against the Buckeyes (31-8).
The junior guard, so often overshadowed by Robinson and Taylor, had 15 points and six rebounds.
The game played out sort of the way the whole season has in Lawrence, Kan.
Early in the year, coach Bill Self wondered if this team was even tournament material.
The Jayhawks trailed most of the night against Purdue in the regional semifinals and were no better than North Carolina for most of the next game.
One win. Then another. This latest one came on the biggest stage – in the Superdome. Next, a meeting Monday with Kentucky and a chance to bring the second title in five years back to Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas beat a John Calipari-coached team in 2008 when the Jayhawks beat Memphis.
Jared Sullinger was supposed to give Ohio State a big advantage in its rematch with Kansas.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
Sullinger, Ohio State’s super sophomore, struggled against Kansas’ big front line, shooting 5 for 19 for the Buckeyes.
Sullinger didn’t play when Kansas beat Ohio State 78-67 on Dec. 10 because of back spasms. With the hefty power forward back in the lineup, the Buckeyes were supposed to have the upper hand inside.
Instead, Jayhawks center Jeff Withey harassed Sullinger throughout the second half as Kansas rallied.
Sullinger, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, struggled with his emotions after the loss, walking with his jersey pulled over his head as the teams lined up to shake hands.