Kansas' lofty postseason hopes crumpled under the weight of an ideal game plan Sunday.
Unheralded Texas-El Paso, seeded ninth, stunned the second-ranked and top-seeded Jayhawks 66-60 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the Dayton Arena."We're out a lot earlier than we expected to go out and a lot earlier than anybody expected us to go out," freshman center Greg Ostertag said. "But I guess nothing is impossible.
"Even the best lose."
The Miners, 27-6, pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament by taking control with about three minutes remaining and withstanding a couple of Kansas threats.
The victory was secured when Johnny Melvin hit two free throws with 13 seconds to play that gave UTEP a 64-60 lead. Kansas didn't get off another shot.
But the end for KU may have come much earlier, when the Jayhawks, 27-5, couldn't solve the Miners' spread offense. UTEP spread the floor on its first possession of the second half and rarely went away from the strategy.
On nearly every possession the Miners worked the shot clock to 15 seconds before starting their offense and then cashed in on 58-percent shooting in the second half.
"They had a marvelous game plan and the athletes to carry it out," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "It was something we talked about, something they might try."
But the Jayhawks were powerless to stop it.
"We tried to contain their guards, get the shot clock down to 10 seconds and make them take a bad shot," Kansas guard Adonis Jordan said. "But we were a step behind."
That was Kansas' main problem Sunday, but not the only one.
Although the Jayhawks had 13 offensive rebounds to the Miners' 11, UTEP made the most of its second chances. The Miners trailed 16-8 early but had stickbacks for four of their next five baskets.
"We can't say we got bad bounces," Kansas forward Richard Scott said. "We didn't box out. In the first half they ruled the boards and kept us out of position."
That strong rebounding helped get UTEP even and its confidence brimming. At halftime it was 27-27, but the Miners felt in control.
"That's when we said, `Let's spread the floor, make the court wider and try to get it to our big men,' " said Prince Stewart, the guard who usually handled the ball in the spread.
The ploy also allowed the Miners to get maximum playing time from their front line. The three starters each had three fouls in the first half, but only center David Van Dyke fouled out. Forwards Melvin and Marlon Maxey combined for 32 points, including 19 in the second half.
The Miners' most important run came with five minutes remaining, when Ralph Davis' two free throws gave UTEP a 49-47 lead. In less than two minutes the Miners were ahead by eight, through a combination of inside power and sloppy Kansas ball handling.
The Jayhawks quickly cut the score to 55-52 on a layup by Alonzo Jamison and a three-pointer by Steve Woodberry.
The margin remained at three when UTEP's Melvin hit the shot of the game, a short fallaway from between defenders that gave the Miners a 62-57 lead with 50 seconds to play.
A Rex Walters free throw and Richard Scott stickback made it 62-60 with 16 seconds left, but Kansas never got it back with a chance to tie or go ahead.
Melvin's free throws iced the game and chilled the Jayhawks.