San Jose, Calif. Enough about Southern Illinois University's defense, already.
"Honestly, I think ours is better," Kansas University junior guard Russell Robinson said Wednesday in HP Pavilion, site of today's 6:10 p.m. NCAA West Regional Sweet 16 matchup between top-seeded KU and fourth-seeded SIU.
"I just think we have the numbers to prove it."
It has been widely reported that the Salukis (29-6) rank third in the country in scoring defense at 56.1 points allowed per game. Kansas (32-4) ranks 29th at 61.6 points surrendered.
However, the Jayhawks rank second in the U.S. in field-goal-percentage defense (37.3), while SIU rates 61st at 41.3.
Kansas also averages more steals (9.0 to 6.6) and blocks (6.6 to 3.3) than Southern Illinois.
"I think that's something you can come out and try to prove tomorrow in the game," Robinson said of establishing - once and for all - which defense is better.
The Jayhawks, who have been listed as nine-point favorites, appeared Wednesday to grow weary of questions concerning SIU's impenetrable defense.
"Everybody's talking about Southern Illinois' defense. I think we are a pretty good defense as well," center Sasha Kaun said. "It's a matter of coming to the game and showing that on the court."
One thing appears certain: Because of defenses that never rest, participants are saying tonight's game will be a grind-it-out slugfest, maybe a defensive classic.
"We have got to make them fight," said SIU's Randal Falker, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior tapped the Missouri Valley's Defensive Player of the Year. "We've got to get them in a big ol' bloody brawl.
"Our practices every day have been a big bloody mess," Falker added.
As it turns out, so have KU's ... at least this week.
"We didn't get the helmets and pads out, but it's been a physical two days of practice," KU coach Bill Self said. "We told our red team (second team), 'You've got to get us as prepared as you can.'''
The physical practices haven't resulted in any new injuries - Sherron Collins said his swollen left knee was feeling fine after getting it bumped in Sunday's Kentucky game. They've just made the Jayhawks more eager to try to penetrate SIU's man-to-man pressure.
"They are scrappy. They are everywhere. They are like little piranhas biting at you," sophomore Brandon Rush said.
Rush knocked down seven threes in eight attempts in last weekend's wins over Niagara and Kentucky, while teammate Mario Chalmers has cashed 16 of 26 threes over the last five games.
SIU's defense gave up just three three-pointers in 24 attempts in last weekend's wins over Holy Cross and Virginia Tech.
"I'm not worried about that," Rush said. "In the Virginia Tech game, they got some open shots and didn't make them. But we know if they pressure the three-point line, someone will be open inside. If they double inside, it'll free us on the perimeter."
2006-07 March 21 KU-SIU Hoops prev
- Brandon Rush talks about Thursday's Sweet Sixteen showdown with SIU
- CBS color commentator Jay Bilas talks about this weekend's action in San Jose
- Darrell Arthur talks to the media, preparing for the third NCAA Tourney game of his KU career
- Mario Chalmers talks to the media before heading to practice Wednesday at the HP Pavilion
- Russell Robinson talks to the media before the first Sweet 16 game of his KU career
- Sherron Collins talks about what promises to be a defensive battle Thursday night
- SIU forward Randal Falker talks about Thursday's test against one-seeded KU
Sounds simple enough, yet just three opposing players have scored 20 points in a game versus SIU this season. Western Kentucky's Courtney Lee (23), Evansville's Matt Webster (21) and Wichita State's P.J. Cousinard (20).
"They are about as quick as anybody we'll play, period," Self said. "They guard a way that all coaches, if you are a man-to-man coach, hope their teams guard. In positions where they are extremely quick, they are very sound. In positions where they maybe are not as quick, their position is so good they appear to be much quicker, so much quicker than they would be in a foot race."
All the warnings about SIU's defense just may eliminate any chance the Jayhawks would take a smaller conference school, a mid-major, lightly tonight.
"They are the type of team that can sneak up on you," Rush said. "People think just because their name is 'Southern Illinois' they are a lower class team. They are not a mid-major. The way they have played the last few weeks, they are not a mid-major anymore."
The winner of the KU-SIU game will play either UCLA or Pittsburgh in Saturday's Elite Eight. Game time has not been set for that contest.
- Jay Bilas' take on San Jose
- 6Sports video: KU among top seeds still alive in San Jose (03-21-07)
- 6Sports video: Top defensive teams take floor in KU, SIU (03-21-07)
- 6Sports video: Salukis familiar with success in big dance (03-21-07)
- 6Sports video: KU makes sweet return to Sweet 16 (03-21-07)
- 6Sports video: Jankovich returns to team after coaching announcement (03-21-07)
- 6Sports video: What exactly is a Saluki? (03-21-07)
- We'll see about 'D' (03-22-07)
- Salukis' Shaw practices (03-22-07)
- Players happy for 'Jank' (03-22-07)
- Kansas keeps it loose (03-22-07)
- Gary Bedore's KU basketball notebook (03-22-07)
- Kansas-SIU notebook (03-22-07)
- Keegan: Kansas has edge in West (03-22-07)
- Jayhawk faithful take no chances (03-22-07)
- Family with Illinois roots faces hawk-eat-dog competition (03-22-07)
- They're real: Southern Illinois' Salukis are dogs with long history (03-22-07)
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