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Archive for Monday, March 19, 2007

Extra Minutes: Kansas 88, Kentucky 76

March 19, 2007

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Some thoughts...From Chicago

Gary Bedore, Journal-World KU men's basketball beat writer

"Great effort from Rush and Julian to lead the Jayhawks to the Sweet 16.

Kentucky threw a lot of defenses at KU, but the Jayhawks stuck with it and especially burned UK by burying threes.

The Jayhawks were businesslike all weekend and did a nice job putting away two opponents."

Tom Keegan, Journal-World sports editor

"Kentucky packed the paint with long, strong, tough defenders and dared Kansas to hit three-point shots. A couple of months ago that would have been the path to success. It didn't work this time. Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers caught fire and the Jayhawks made 10 of 16 three-point shots. When Kansas shoots like that, nobody can beat this team."

Ryan Greene, KUSports.com editor

"Just as it proved to be the case last Sunday in the Big 12 title game, scoring balance and depth will always have more staying power than a one-two punch. Whatever punch Kentucky had went out the United Center concourses when Randolph Morris headed to the bench early in the second half.

Brandon Rush confirmed it in the locker room after the game: When KU shoots like it did Sunday, such as hitting 10 of 16 threes, no one can beat the Jayhawks."

Ryan Wood, Journal-World sports reporter

"The Jayhawks' hot shooting was what won it, but KU's frontcourt depth was key in preventing any trouble in the second half. Kentucky big man Randolph Morris was hacked all game long and three of KU's forwards registered four fouls. But with a frontcourt that's four deep, it wasn't a big problem and nobody fouled out. Just another reason Kansas is built for a title run."

Inside the numbers

85.7: That was Brandon Rush's percentage from beyond the three-point line. And not only did he hit six of seven attempts, but he swished six of seven attempts. It got to the point late where you knew they were going in. Of course, it's unreasonable to think that Rush can shoot like that every time he hits the floor. But he did it at the right time for his team, needing offensive separation just after the half.

22: Randolph Morris led all scorers with 22 points, and the Kentucky big man showed why he'll be a prized piece to have at the next level. But his points, with the exception of early on in the game, mostly came after KU had pulled away and he was forced to sit for five crucial minutes early in the second half with three fouls. Give him credit, though, for hitting 14 of 16 free throw attempts.

64.3: Speaking of that second half stretch with Morris on the bench, holding a towel, KU shot 64.3 percent, or otherwise an efficient 18-of-28 from the field in the second half. The final score made the game look a little closer than it actually was, probably.

21: With 21 points and eight rebounds, Julian Wright played probably his cleanest game of the year. He had just one turnover, he was crisp on offense, with the ball in his hands, and made a couple of nice drives finished off with tear-drop jumpers. He was the glue that pulled together KU's inside and outside game most of the afternoon.

6: Don't overlook Kentucky being within six points at the half. For 20 minutes, the Wildcats took KU almost completely out of its game, slowing things down and locking down on the Jayhawks defensively. KU's got to get more efficient at pulling away against teams that can play defense like that for 40 minutes and stay out of foul trouble, because they're surely waiting down the road somewhere.

Just in case you missed it...

Brandon Rush didn't just make six of seven three-pointers. But on those six that he made, he never touched the rim. That was as well as Rush could possibly shoot, and he'd tell you the same thing. KU players always talk about Rush being the team's offensive key, and he was as important as he's been all year Sunday.

Hopefully you didn't miss it...

Being a team with as solid of conditioning as KU has is finally showing to have major benefits. Kentucky defended just as well as Kansas in the first half, and that was a big reason for the game being a six-point contest at halftime. KU pulled away in the second half partly due to Kentucky dropping into a zone to save some legs for later. That plan backfired, as KU saved its best shooting for the second half, going 18-of-28.

They said it...

Julian Wright on what Randolph Morris leaving the game with foul trouble in the second half meant: "I think just his inside presence in terms of defense (was gone). We felt like we could get in the paint a little more. Also, just guys stepping up and making shots, we got our transition going pretty well. I think that was a big key for us."

Julian Wright on what he knows about Southern Illinois: "I know their coach (Chris Lowery), he recruited me at Illinois. He's a really good coach, he has them playing hard, and they're really good on defense. They have two good players in (Jamaal) Tatum and (Randal) Falker, so they're going to have a one-two punch. We're going to have to be ready to guard and use our length to our advantage."

Mario Chalmers on Brandon Rush's red-hot shooting: "I think what really helped us was getting Brandon Rush involved. He's the key to our team. And we got him some open looks and he was able to knock them down and we just fed off him."

Mario Chalmers on the team's lack of celebration Sunday: "We're definitely not celebrating until after we win the National Championship. It's good to win these first two games, and we've got four more games to win and after that we can celebrate."

Sherron Collins on Michael Jordan's presence at the game Sunday: "It was crazy, because at first we were just like 'look at the Range Rover, it's got some rims on there.' And then we looked at the rims and they had 'MJ,' so everybody's like 'that's Michael Jordan's truck.' So everybody started taking pictures and everything. So we knew he was there. It's crazy, though."

Brandon Rush on having the best three-point performance of his career: "I never have (hit 6-of-7). I guess it was just one of those nights, where you just can't miss. The rim was as big as an ocean. I had my mind set on just taking every shot that was open for me."

Darnell Jackson on going to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time: "It means a lot to me because this is my first time going to the Sweet Sixteen. This is like a dream to me to be going further in the tournament. This is one of the things me and Russell (Robinson) wanted to do was go further in the tournament, so now we get a chance to go to the Sweet Sixteen and play."

Bill Self on the importance of attacking Kentucky with Randolph Morris and Ramel Bradley on the bench with foul trouble in the second half: "I thought that was real key because we made some big plays with those guys on the bench. And next thing you know, when they get back in the game, they're down double-figures instead of it being a one- or two-possession game...I think our players probably sensed we've got a golden opportunity, now we've got to make the most of it."

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