KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas and several perceptions about Virginia took a beating last night.
The Cavaliers weren't supposed to have the inside game to move out the top-seeded Jayhawks in their Midwest Regional semifinal. Virginia would be intimidated by a pro-Kansas crowd at Kemper Arena. Finally, Curtis Staples is nothing but a three-point shooter.
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
The fourth-seeded Cavaliers earned their first regional final berth in six years with a 67-58 pounding of Kansas that seemed to catch everyone but Virginia backers and Jayhawks coach Roy )) Williams by surprise.
Virginia (25-8) will meet Arkansas in tomorrow's regional final.
Kansas (25-6) might have three players 6 feet 10 or taller, but what good is that height when Junior Burrough and Jason Williford are keeping them away from the boards? On the perimeter, the positioning was provided by Staples, a freshman from Roanoke, Va., who took Jerod Haase, the Jayhawks' leading scorer, out of the game.
Kansas shot a season-low 33.9 percent. Haase, the Big Eight Newcomer of the Year, was limited to one shot in the first half and five points, 10 below his average and matching his season low.
"Coach [Jeff Jones] wanted me to go everywhere Haase went," said Staples, who set a Virginia record for three-pointers this season. "Haase is like myself, he keeps running off screens, and I had to beat him to the spot. Maybe I'm not known as a defensive player, but you make your own assumption after this."
Staples said the Cavaliers were angry about a lack of respect shown them by the Kansas media and the Jayhawks' fans who expected them to put up little opposition.
"A local TV station last night asked what a Cavalier was," Staples said. "Maybe they know who we are now."
The sellout crowd of 16,153 saw enough of Staples, Burrough and Harold Deane for one season, as the three combined for 58 of the Cavaliers' 67 points. Deane had a game-high 22, and seized control when his counterpart at the point, Jacque Vaughn, was called for his third foul with 11 minutes left.
"I think the key was after Vaughn's third foul," Jones said. "Harold was like a shark who smelled blood. He really went on the attack and took the ball to the basket. This game wasn't a thing of beauty, but anyone who looked at these two teams should have anticipated a tough, physical game, which is exactly what they got."
Virginia was nearly as miserable from the field as Kansas, as it hit only 36.5 percent, but Deane and Staples, who had 18 points, combined for a respectable 13-for-29 a week after struggling at a subregional in Dayton, Ohio. Burrough had 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, as the Cavaliers out-rebounded the taller Jayhawks, 49-44.
"This game was won over the last couple of summers in the weight room," said Williams. "We couldn't get the position we wanted. We ran every offense we have, and what happened was not exactly what I wanted."
The pro-Kansas crowd was at its loudest just before Haase fed B. J. Williams for a 38-38 tie with 13:00 remaining, but Virginia scored the next three baskets.
Deane scored twice in the lane, and then Burrough scored in transition with 10:05 left for a 44-38 lead. Haase's only basket of the game, a three-pointer from the left corner with 9:09 to go, cut the difference in half. Deane's three-pointer made it 52-45 with 5:40 to go, and the lead got to 63-50 before Kansas made a late rally.
I= The Jayhawks got 13 points and seven assists from Vaughn.