SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Even before the season began, Kansas coach Bill Self knew his team was something special.
"Not often do you combine talent, experience, depth, toughness," he said.
Well, his Jayhawks showed all of those traits against Memphis on Monday night, rallying to force overtime on a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer in the final seconds and then pulling out a 75-68 thriller for the storied program's third NCAA championship before a boisterous crowd of 43,257 at the Alamodome.
The Jayhawks (37-3), the Midwest Region's top seed who had already set a school record for wins in a season with Saturday's semifinal victory against North Carolina, won titles in 1952 and in 1988.
Meanwhile, the Tigers (38-2), the top seed from the South Region, looked poised to win their first national title thanks to the brilliance of freshman point guard Derrick Rose, but, as many had been predicting for weeks, they faltered at the free-throw line in waning moments of regulation.
Kansas then dominated the overtime, the first in a title game since Arizona beat Kentucky in 1997 and the seventh overall, with all five players scoring. That included Chalmers, who finished with 18 points, three assists and four steals to earn the most outstanding player award.
"I got a good look," Chalmers said of his 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation that left the Tigers deflated. "When it left my hand, it felt good, and I was just glad it went in."
"We made so many plays down the stretch and got the ball into our most clutch hands, and he delivered," Self said. "If we played 10 times, it'd probably go five and five. We got fortunate late, but I'm really proud of our guys."
The Jayhawks controlled the first half behind their aggressive and tenacious defense and patient offense. The Tigers managed just four fastbreak points and hit 11 of 28 shots (39.3 percent) and, for the first time since a Feb. 16 game at UAB, trailed at intermission, 33-28.
But the Tigers came out of the locker room with far more energy and turned the game into a frenetic, up-and-down affair, and that was when Rose was able to take over as Carmelo Anthony had done in leading Syracuse to the 2003 national title as just a mere freshman.
With his team down 43-40, Rose scored 14 of his team's next 16 in an eight-minute highlight reel. He hit drives, a 3-pointer, a one-hander in the lane, an acrobatic scoop shot that drew a foul and an off-balance jumper that was initially ruled a 3 but reversed after a check of the monitor. That didn't seem so big as the Tigers took a 60-51 lead with 2:12 left.
But the Jayhawks didn't quit.
Sophomore forward Darrell Arthur, who finished with a team-high 20 points, hit a jumpers, reserve sophomore guard Sherron Collins followed with a 3-pointer, and after Memphis junior All-America guard Chris Douglas-Roberts made two free throws, Chalmers hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 62-58.
Memphis, among the worst free-throw shooting teams in the nation during the regular-season but had made 76-of-94 in its past three NCAA games, reverted to its old flawed form.
Douglas-Roberts missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Arthur followed with a turnaround jumper. Douglas-Roberts then missed a pair of free throws, and, after Dozier got the rebound and Rose was fouled, he went 1-of-2 with 10.8 seconds to set the stage for Chalmers.
"I told them, 'You guys did everything right,' " Calipari said. "Ten seconds to go, we're thinking we're national champs, and then a kid makes a shot, and all of a sudden we're not.
"Our kids fought; they did everything right. I'm proud of them. I'm disappointed in myself. I look at that and say, 'We should have that game.' "
In the overtime, junior guard Brandon Rush scored off a steal that just continued Kansas' momentum. Arthur followed with a dunk, and senior forward Darnell Jackson scored inside to make in 69-63.
Memphis got no closer than three as Chalmers and Collins sealed the win with free throws.
Talent, experience, depth and toughness.