SAN JOSE, Calif. -- All second half, Jamaal Tatum had carried Southern Illinois on his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame. After a cold first half, he had kept the Salukis in the game in the second period with 17 points.
Then, with just 10 seconds left, he got the shot he wanted and the Salukis needed to tie the game - an open three-pointer. He missed it, and a magical season for Southern Illinois was over with a 61-58 loss to top-seeded Kansas in the West Regional semifinals last night.
"The last shot I took, I practiced ... late at night, early in the morning, between classes," Tatum said. "I mean, it felt good. The release felt good. I didn't make it. It's part of basketball, of competing. Sometimes things go the way you want, sometimes they don't."
The Salukis had another chance after that, but Randal Falker turned the ball over after grabbing the rebound.
"If I had another timeout left, I would have called it, but I didn't," SIU coach Chris Lowery said after just his team's second loss in 17 games. "We came up short."
The Jayhawks' Julian Wright helped to extend the Salukis' dream a few more moments by missing two free throws with :02 left, giving Tony Young a chance to throw up a desperation running three-pointer from just inside midcourt at the buzzer. It banged off the backboard.
And so Kansas advanced to tomorrow's regional final against the winner of the later game between Pitt and UCLA.
The Jayhawks (33-4) have won 14 in a row and are one victory away from their first Final Four berth under former Illlinois coach Bill Self.
The fourth-seeded Salukis, trying to reach the Elite Eight for the first time, finished 29-7.
The frustration for the Salukis comes in that they forced one of the nation's elite programs to play their kind of game, a grind-it-out, possession-for-possession battle for most of the night.
Kansas matched its season high with 19 turnovers and made only 10 of 19 free throws.
In the end, the Salukis were hurt by their shooting, hitting only .368 for the game, including only six of 25 from beyond the arc.
The Salukis' style was one Kansas just had to deal with. It was one that helped create a riveting game with 10 lead changes.
"You don't have plays against Southern Illinois," Self said. "You have players who make plays."
And for Kansas, the player was forward Brandon Rush. He led the Jayhawks with a meager 12 points, but made all six of his shots from the floor.
After a Tatum jumper cut the Kansas lead to 59-58 with 0:47 left, the Jayhawks called time with 0:37 left and turned to Rush.
"We thought we could drive to the basket," Self said.
Rush said it was a new play, but whatever it was, Rush was able to get to the lane and bank in a shot to make it 61-58 with 0:25 left, ending the scoring.
Tatum's efforts at heroics came next, but it wasn't to be.
"It felt good," he repeated. "I didn't make it."
Terry Bannon writes for the Chicago Tribune.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS-Falker 4-8 3-6 11, Boyle 1-3 1-1 3, Tatum 7-19 4-4 19, Mullins 0-3 0-0 0, Young 5-16 0-0 14, Green 1-1 0-0 2, Clemmons 0-0 0-0 0, Shaw 3-7 2-3 9. Totals 21-57 10-14 58. KANSAS-Rush 6-6 0-1 12, Wright 3-7 1-4 7, Kaun 1-1 0-0 2, Robinson 4-10 0-0 9, Chalmers 2-6 5-8 9, Arthur 4-5 1-1 9, Collins 1-3 0-1 2, Stewart 1-1 1-2 3, Jackson 3-3 2-2 8. Totals 25-42 10-19 61. Halftime-Kansas, 27-24. 3-point goals-S. Illinois 6-25 (Young 4-11, Shaw 1-5, Tatum 1-8, Mullins 0-1), Kansas 1-6 (Robinson 1-4, Chalmers 0-1, Collins 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-S. Illinois 31 (Falker 9), Kansas 27 (Jackson, Rush 5). Assists-S. Illinois 9 (Shaw 3), Kansas 16 (Rush 5). Total fouls-S. Illinois 21, Kansas 16. A-NA.