SAN ANTONIO — College basketball's bully just couldn't help itself. Moments before No. 1 Kansas and 11th-seed VCU tipped off, several Rams players say that one of the Jayhawks' Morris twins hit them with some pointed trash talk.
"He said, 'You've had a great run. It ends now,' " VCU senior guard Ed Nixon says. "It was one of the Morris twins. I can't say which one for sure because they look alike. He told us our run ends. We looked around at each other like, 'Did he really just try to play us like that?' "
It happened in the captains meeting before tipoff, when the leaders for each team gather at center court for a few last-minute words from the referees and traditionally exchange handshakes.
"Oh, I heard it," VCU senior guard Joey Rodriguez says. "They thought they could intimidate us too. It was sort of funny."
What happened next will never be funny in Lawrence, Kansas or anywhere else where Jayhawks roam. For VCU raced out to 39-21 lead on the way to a 71-61 win that completed the greatest — and most unlikely Final Four run — in NCAA Tournament history. Kansas had another inexplicable loss as a No. 1 seed and an overwhelming favorite.
The Morris twins sat slumped in front of their adjacent lockers when it was over, their words barely audible.
Kansas claims that the pre-game barb never happened. But the VCU player reports are remarkably similar, all remembering the exact phrase.
"They know they said it," VCU guard Bradford Burgess says. "It is what it is. We won."
Kansas' run to the Elite Eight was marked by attempts at intimidation (with Marcus Morris warning Richmond's players, "You boys better be ready," and a tussle in the tunnel that took place before a 20-point wipeout of those same Spiders).
Marcus Morris did keep praising VCU after the game. The gamesmanship was done, replaced by a giant's heartbreak.
"They're a better team," Morris says of the 11th seed. "They played better and made more shots."