Keegan: If Rush heats up, look out
AUBURN HILLS, MICH. ? The Kansas University charter flight landed safely Wednesday evening, ahead of any snow storms that might be on the way. We’ll have to wait until Friday night to find out if Brandon Rush’s jump shot made the trip.
The Jayhawks don’t necessarily have to have Rush on fire to win twice in the Palace, home of the Detroit Pistons, the world’s best basketball team. Not unlike the Pistons, KU is a defense-first unit and doesn’t have a player about whom it could be said as he goes, so goes the team. No statistical correlation exists between Rush scoring and KU winning. The Jayhawks are 7-1 in games in which Rush doesn’t score in double figures. Statistics can be misleading.
Winners of 15 of their last 16, the Jayhawks needed Rush to keep them in the game in the only loss during that stretch, and he scored three points in the 80-55 loss at Texas.
Rush finding his stroke certainly wouldn’t hurt the Jayhawks’ chances of advancing to Oakland, Calif.
The friendly freshman out of Kansas City, Mo., despite a recent shooting slump, still has an efficient adjusted field-goal percentage (one credit for two-point field goals, one-and-a-half for three-pointers) of 55.
Lately, though, getting clean looks on his drives and lane jumpers has been harder with foes determined to take away his right hand. From inside the three-point arc, Rush has hit just 30 percent in the past seven games. During the same period, he has shot 42 percent on three-pointers.
Rush averaged nine points in the three Big 12 Conference tourney games. That didn’t prevent the Jayhawks from taking the title, but it’s a cause for concern.
Interviewed before a recent practice in Allen Fieldhouse, where a pigeon was flying around and looking for crumbs in the stands, Rush said: “The Big 12 tournament just wasn’t my kind of party.”
Some might read that and get upset, thinking he doesn’t take it seriously enough. That’s not the case. It’s his way of trying to put a bad shooting performance behind him, his way of keeping it from eating him up. After all, it’s over, and it happened to turn out well for the team.
When he’s going through a rough period such as this, Rush sometimes confides in his NBA brother, Kareem.
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“He just tells me to keep shooting,” the kid brother said. “He has off days, too, and he’s supposed to be a real good shooter. It’s just something shooters have sometimes.”
This is a team that feeds off its defense, especially off the relentless pressure applied by Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and Jeff Hawkins. That’s what gets them going and can demoralize opponents.
Still, everyone gets a boost of energy when Rush shoots well. When he passes up shots, he gets pulled from games. In practice, he’s forced to ride the treadmill.
“I shoot a lot in practice,” Rush said and then turned his eyes toward the courtside machine. “I see that thing over there.”
This afternoon, Rush gets his first look at something else: The rims in the Palace. Can he find the bottom of the nets? Bradley first, and then Pittsburgh or Kent State, hopes he can’t.
“Last couple games I’ve been shooting bad, but I’m still trying to stay aggressive,” Rush said.