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Archive for Sunday, March 4, 2007

Keegan: Durant at best in best

March 4, 2007

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A holy man doesn't walk into St. Peter's Basilica and start sinning. Tiger Woods doesn't shank shots at Augusta. Pavarotti doesn't hit a flat note inside Carnegie Hall.

The great ones know how to turn wondrous venues into home turf immediately. There is no better place to watch a basketball game than Allen Fieldhouse, and there is no better amateur playing basketball than University of Texas freshman Kevin Durant. So, naturally, the best was at his best inside the best.

Seeing Durant watch and listen to the pregame introductions of Kansas University players, it was evident he knew all about where he was, knew he never would play there again, and was determined to absorb it.

Nevermind the 25 first-half points and 32 overall despite being defended so strongly, the words of an opponent said more.

"It was frustrating," said Brandon Rush, who did the best of five different defenders at slowing the scoring machine. "When's he gonna miss? Is he ever gonna miss? Is he Michael Jordan?"

If the 6-foot-9 Durant weren't so tall, he'd still be a terrific player because he's such a great shooter, so smart in understanding that in basketball math five equals one, so quick and so fluid.

"He was making three after three after three, posting up, doing everything," Rush said. "He should be the No. 1 player in the draft."

Durant's ability to stop so suddenly, rise so quickly and pull the trigger on such a soft shot, makes him so difficult to guard.

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2006-07 March 3 KU-Texas Hoops

"You can't block him," Rush said. "It's impossible to block him unless you're 7 feet tall."

Durant's long, skinny body was everywhere. It was obvious his head never wandered. Once, when he knew Connor Atchley, knees locked, was not still supposed to be standing next to him on the block, he gave him a gentle shove on the path toward his assignment, setting a ball screen on the perimeter. Another time, when A.J. Abrams was standing next to him in the corner, Durant moved him toward the wing to better space the floor.

If Kansas had lost the game, instead of winning it 90-86, most in the crowd would have filed out talking about Durant, instead of bemoaning anything about KU's effort, other than the recurring dreadful late-game free-throw shooting. That's a problem in need of a cure, and Sherron Collins had his second consecutive scoreless game.

Other than that, Kansas brought its best in storming back from a 16-point deficit to a 10-point lead. The Jayhawks made 11 of 18 three-pointers. They blocked seven shots and ran the floor with a kick that suggested getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament means a great deal to them. They didn't let Durant and D.J. Augustin beat them the way Acie Law did.

Sitting at the podium afterward, Rush appeared surprised to be asked where he would rank Durant among players he had faced this season.

"Uh, one," Rush said.

"One," Julian Wright answered the same question. "As far is in the clutch, Acie Law ..."

Interrupting, Rush said: "I don't care about that. He's No. 1."

As a team, Kansas figures to be one spot behind that in the next poll, to be released Monday.

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