Last Saturday, I watched the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team grind out a 76-72 win at Oklahoma to complete the season sweep after beating the Sooners in a triple-overtime instant classic last month. Despite Oklahoma being #3 in the nation at the time, the mere fact that kept it so close against the Jayhawks made me nervous…especially since Kansas led by as many as 14 halfway through the opening half. They got the win behind a stellar performance by Devonte Graham but I would’ve much rather Kansas stepped on their throats. Why? Because the team always seems to always go through a swoon whenever they play away from The Phog on or within a day or two of St. Valentine’s Day. It’s caused me much consternation over the last 11 years because these are games they should win handily. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: Darryl Dora’s shot.
How I first came across this moment? I came across this moment by watching it on ESPN. It was an ESPN Big Monday game on St. Valentine’s Day. Kansas was #2 in the nation at 20-1 overall, 10-0 in the Big 12. They looked poised for a deep run, having recovered from the throttling that Villanova delivered in Philadelphia 3 weeks earlier. In front of a sellout crowd at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, the favored Jayhawks were up against it all night. The Texas Tech effort was likened to so many of Bobby Knight’s Indiana teams. They led 39-33 at the half and seemed to have the game in hand when they went up 68-63 late in the 2nd half. But Kansas closed regulation on a 6-1 run, punctuated by Keith Langford slashing drive to tie it with 4.1 seconds left. In overtime, Texas Tech looked ready to score the upset until Christian Moody tipped in Wayne Simien’s missed shot to force double overtime. In double overtime, Kansas jumped out to a 5-point lead after Aaron Miles hit Langford for a 3 from the top of the key. With 2 minutes left, I thought it was as good as over. But Kansas never scored again and Darryl Dora came off a wicked screen and drained a 3 that gave Texas Tech an 80-79 lead with 3.5 seconds left. Aaron Miles’ runner from 30 feet hit the glass and Texas Tech had their upset.
What it meant to me then? In the immediate moment, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe Kansas lost that game after having battled back from the 7-point deficit earlier in the 2nd half. I watched SportsCenter, which followed the game, 2 straight times to make sure what happened was real. When Kansas’ season started floundering away as they lost 4 of their next 7 before getting picked off by Bucknell in the 1st round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament, I remembered that shot in Lubbock as the source.
What it means to me now? Even today, some 11 years later, I remember that moment like it was yesterday. Even though we’ve won a lot a games against Texas Tech since, the pain isn’t any less excruciating. I’ve seen a lot of heartbreaking Kansas losses but that one still resonates with me because of just how much that one shot usurped the season.