By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
To heck with Kevin Pittsnogle. The Kansas Jayhawks got Farokhmaneshed.
That's right, the NCAA Tournament's top overall seed and prohibitive favorite to win a second national championship in three seasons was eliminated in Saturday's second round by No. 9 seed Northern Iowa, 69-67.
Just two days after Ali Farokhmanesh drilled a late three to give the unheralded Panthers a first-round win over UNLV, the sharpshooter made another one with 35 seconds left to give his team a four-point lead that UNI would not relinquish.
The Panthers, who became the first Missouri Valley Conference team to advance to the Sweet 16 since Larry Bird's Indiana State squad did it in 1979, controlled the first half and weren't shy in the opening minutes of the second half, either.
UNI took its game right at the Jayhawks, occasionally settling for outside shots but frequenly working the ball inside, right at KU interior stud Cole Aldrich. After three first-half treys, Farokhmanesh did go cold from beyond the stripe in the second half, but his teammates made enough big plays on offense to keep the pressure on the Jayhawks.
And when KU staged a rally inside the eight-minute mark, as the crowd inside Oklahoma City's Ford Center knew it would, the Panthers certainly bent but did not break.
UNI couldn't handle the Kansas full-court pressure. Several turnovers led to points for Kansas, but the upstarts squeezed out just enough big plays as they needed to avoid the complete meltdown.
What was once a 12-point edge for UNI after the break was sliced to one point with less than a minute left. But there was Farokhmanesh, ready to break his cold spell with a wide-open three. Feet set, he swished a long-range bomb to give his squad a 66-62 advantage, and it was nearly a piece of cake from there.
Kansas is the first No. 1 seed to exit in the second round since Kentucky and Stanford both suffered the same fate in 2004, but neither of those squads was the heavy national favorite that Kansas was to win this tournament.