Mario Chalmers' Big Shot Leads Kansas To First National Title Since 1988

April 8, 2008

SAN ANTONIO (AP) – History was the last thing on Mario Chalmers’ mind when he launched his big 3-pointer.

All he wanted to do was keep Kansas alive.

The shot went in with 2.1 seconds to play and sent the national championship game into overtime, where the Jayhawks pulled it out 75-68 over Memphis on Monday night.

“I just know that it was a big shot,” he said. “My teammates had confidence in me. Coach (Bill) Self had confidence in me.”

Chalmers, the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, finished with 18 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the floor, including 2-for-6 from beyond the arc. He made all six of his free throws and had three assists.

Kansas didn’t want anyone else taking that shot, and with good reason.

With each year, the 6-foot-1 junior from Anchorage has become a better shooter from 3-point range. He has gone from a 37.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc as a freshman to 40.4 percent as a sophomore and 47.6 as a junior.

None of his 3s were bigger than the one he hit to shock the Tigers.

“That has to be one of the biggest shots in basketball history,” said Kansas guard Rodrick Stewart, who missed the Final Four after fracturing his kneecap during practice Friday.

Chalmers had a feeling his big moment was coming. Jarrett Jack had all but predicted it back in 2004.

Chalmers was friends with Jack, a guard at Georgia Tech, which lost to Connecticut in the national final. Chalmers attended the game, which, by chance, was played at the Alamodome.

“I talked to him a little bit after the game,” Chalmers said. “He said, ‘One day you’ll be there. When you get there, make the most of your opportunity.’ “

Chalmers did precisely that, helping the Jayhawks with their third NCAA title, and their first since 1988.

The Jayhawks have endured countless disappointments in the NCAA tournament, and they looked as if they were headed for another until Chalmers took a pass, and launched the tying shot from the top of the key.

“I was just looking at it with my mouth open,” teammate Sasha Kaun said.

After the big 3-pointer, Chalmers’ teammates mobbed him as he returned to the bench for a timeout. At the other end, the Tigers walked off the floor, heads bowed.

The game was just tied, but it felt as if Chalmers had won it.

“I just knew that we had the game after that,” forward Darrell Arthur said.

Chalmers also did some good work on the defensive end. Among the nation’s steal leaders all season, Chalmers had four. That was the most among the Jayhawks on a night they totaled 11 steals and took the high-scoring Tigers out of their comfort zone on offense.

At times, Chalmers seemed to be everywhere – pestering the Tigers on defense and then slicing into the lane at the other end of the floor, only to find an open teammate.

When it ended, he was in the best place of all – on a podium at center court, hoisting a national championship trophy with his teammates.

“It’s something that we got here, and we all believed in ourselves,” Chalmers said.