Lincoln, Neb. Right from the beginning of this, his sophomore season, Brandon Rush's jump shot looked different. It looked better than a year ago. It looked as if he had stepped out of one of those textbooks on basketball fundamentals. Great elevation. Released at the top of his jump. Beautiful follow-through. Balanced body. Everything was perfect, except that it wasn't going in all that often.
It's going in now. And it wasn't only going in during a remarkable two-man, first-half flurry he shared with fellow Kansas University sophomore Julian Wright on Monday night in the Devaney Center, it was hitting nothing but net.
It mattered not a bit whether he was tightly guarded or wide-open. Rush, guarded by smaller defenders, was taking target practice on his way to a 20-point night in a 76-56 victory against a Nebraska team that fell behind 43-8, but never stopped hustling.
Corner. Wing. Foul line. Swish. Swish. Swish.
Wright scored KU's first eight points, then Rush took over. In a span of 6:22, Rush scored all 12 of his first-half points, hitting a pair of three-pointers, a pair of jumpers inside the line and a pair of free throws. He cooled in the second half and finished 7-of-13 overall and 3-of-6 beyond the arc.
Rush and fellow perimeter players Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins all have been shooting more accurately from long range in Big 12 play than in the nonconference portion of the schedule. The Jayhawks shot at a long-distance rate of .357 before conference play and .445 in the Big 12. Rush is shooting .455 on three-point attempts in conference games.
2006-07 Jan. 29 KU-NU Hoops
"I don't know why (the team is shooting better)," Rush said. "Everything's falling for us. We're taking good shots. We're not forcing any shots. We find the first man open to take a shot."
Making 50 percent of his three-pointers in conference play, Robinson offered his insight into the improved marksmanship: "We're taking good shots, making the defense move, and when the defense breaks down, we're aggressive, and we take advantage of it. Better ball movement, better shot selection, we're all on the same page."
It takes more than just shooters doing a better job to improve a team's shooting.
"I think we're running our basic offense real well," freshman post player Darrell Arthur said. "We're setting good screens and getting our guards open for good shots."
KU's hot first-half shooting could have been overlooked given how well the Jayhawks played defense and hit the boards during a Nebraska scoreless streak that spanned a remarkable 13:43.
Kansas showed no signs of fatigue in its fourth game in nine days, though the defense faded, and the shots stopped falling in the second half.
"They played small today, so it was easy to shoot over them, and we could get easy buckets because they played small," Arthur said. "It was kind of hard to play them on defense. It was hard guarding them on the perimeter."
Wright was second to Rush in scoring honors with 17 points, despite watching the final 9:09 from the bench after his no-look pass resulted in a dunk at the other end of the floor.
It wasn't a perfect night, but it was another step forward for the Jayhawks, winners of 13 of 14.