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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2003

Jayhawks' play was devastating

BY PHIL AXELROD
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

NEW ORLEANS - This was Kansas basketball at its devastating best.

The Jayhawks put on a clinic how to push the ball down the court, make the extra pass to locate the open shooter on the perimeter and pound the boards with passion.

Marquette could do nothing to stop, or even slow down, the onslaught.

Kansas ran away with a 94-61 victory against Marquette in the NCAA Final Four semifinals last night before 54,432 at the Louisiana Superdome.

Kansas (30-7) will take a five-game winning streak into the school's first championship game since 1991 when the Jayhawks play Syracuse tomorrow night.

Kansas' previous championship was 1988 behind Danny Manning.

Marquette (27-6) was run over by the Kansas transition game that never gave the Golden Eagles a chance to catch their breath. It didn't take Kansas long to establish a pace that was too fast and too furious for Marquette, which definitely didn't want to get into a track meet with the Jayhawks.

“We were probably a step quicker than they were,” said Keith Langford, a 6-4 sophomore guard who made 11 of 14 shots from the field and scored a game-high 23 points. “Attacking early got them back on their heels.”

Kansas actually led by as many as 43 points at 77-34.

Keith Langford had 17 points and Kirk Hinrich had 15 of his 18 points in the first half as the Jayhawks led 59-30 at intermission. Kansas finished the first half with an 18-4 scoring run and started the second half with another 18-4 spurt.

“Needless to say, the first 25-30 minutes was sensational,” Kansas coach Roy Williams said. “We're a team of runs. We have that mentality. Going 18-4 twice, that's pretty impressive.”

Nick Collison contributed 12 points and 15 rebounds and Aaron Miles had 18 points for the Jayhawks.

“When Keith gets out running and stretches the defense, he's as good a player as there is in the open court,” Collison said of Langford.

While the Kansas players couldn't miss, Marquette's shooters couldn't locate the basket. The best illustration of Marquette's futility was Steve Novak, a 6-foot-10 freshman who came into the game having made 14 of 20 shots in the tournament from beyond the arc 3-point line. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts and was 1 of 7 from the field. Point guard Travis Diener was 1 of 11.

Marquette was 23 of 74 for 31.1 percent.

Dwyane Wade, a 6-5 junior and Conference USA player of the year, was no match for the wave of Jayhawks who kept coming at the Golden Eagles. Wade finished with 19 points to lead Marquette.

Kansas hit Marquette from all angles to end the suspense, with high-arching 3-pointers, slashing baseline drives, fast-break layups, dunks and rebound put-backs. The Jayhawks broke free for from a 12-12 deadlock in the first half with a 21-4 run and a 33-16 lead with eight minutes to go. Langford's two-handed dunk on a breakaway layup made it 39-18.

Blink, and Kansas had another basket.

“A couple possessions they were celebrating a basket and we were down at the other end scoring,” Langford said. “We're going to continue to run.”

Kansas scored in flurries adding up to an avalanche of points that buried Marquette.

What was touted as a matchup that could go either way, degenerated into a huge mismatch.

“It's all about who's playing well on that night,” Langford said. “I just felt there was a certain determination from everybody on the team.”

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Phil Axelrod is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.



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