Back on track

Jayhawks claim 'big' win at ISU

Kansas center Sasha Kaun muscles in a bucket over Iowa State defenders Alex Thompson and Jiri Hubalek during the first half Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. Left is Kansas forward Darrell Arthur.

? Bill Self never has felt as if Kansas University’s ship was sinking.

Rocking from side to side, maybe, but not headed to the bottom of the sea.

“I think when you are 24-3, you shouldn’t be able to say that the ship needs righting, but our players all know that it did. We (coaches) felt that it did, too,” Self, KU’s coach, said after the Jayhawks’ 75-64 victory over Iowa State on Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum.

It snapped a two-game road losing streak for the Jayhawks, who suffered a disappointing one-point loss Saturday at Oklahoma State.

Did KU’s 11-point victory keep KU’s vessel afloat?

“I don’t know if we did or not. Time will tell,” Self said. “But we were a better team tonight than we were the last two or three weeks. I do think this is big. I don’t think we’re back to where we were. I don’t think you go from playing poorly to playing great consistently. I think it is a process. This was a great start.”

Self, as he made clear, wasn’t ready to push the panic button entering Wednesday’s game. Yet the Jayhawks had won just four of their past seven games while remaining high (No. 6) in the Associated Press poll.

“We just lost some road games. Everybody loses some road games. We’re still playing pretty well,” junior Brandon Rush said after hitting three threes in four tries and helping KU to its best performance percentage-wise (seven of 11 for 63.6 percent) from beyond the arc for the season.

“I don’t know. I hope so,” Self said, asked if the three-point shot was back in KU’s arsenal. KU (25-3 overall, 10-3 Big 12) had made 14 of 56 treys for 25 percent the last four games. “We had some good possessions offensively.”

Still, it wasn’t an easy victory.

KU first saw a 16-point lead (36-20) dip to six (36-30) and later a 22-point lead (57-35) to nine (64-55).

Darrell Arthur, who hit nine of his season-high 18 shots for 18 points, exited a timeout and stuck a deep jumper, giving KU a 38-30 lead at 18:01. That shot started a 21-5 surge that gave the Jayhawks a 57-35 lead at 11:27.

“Coach told me to get more shots. I had the opportunity to score,” said Arthur, who indicated it was “real fun” roaming inside without a team trapping him on the post for “the first time I can remember in a long time.

“The guards told me they were going to get me the ball today. Russell (Robinson, career-high 10 rebounds, five assists) and Mario said, ‘Get on the block.’ Coach emphasized playing inside-out,” added Arthur, who did stun the Cyclones (14-14, 4-9) the from outside with that one particular jumper.

“They came out of the timeout, we defended what they tried to do, and they ended up with a 17-, 18-foot jumpshot for Darrell Arthur, and he knocks it down. To me, that was the play of the game,” ISU coach Greg McDermott lamented. “Because when you come out of a timeout and the home team has all the momentum and we’re able to stop their initial play and they kick it back to one of their bigs and he hits a long shot, which frankly is the shot we wanted him to take, that just changes the game. If he misses that, we come down and score after the timeout, the momentum stays with us, and it’s a different ballgame.

“Granted, Darrell Arthur is a much better shooter from the perimeter than he was a year ago, but him taking that shot compared to Chalmers (Mario, 15 points, 3-for-4 three-point shooting) or Rush (15 points) or somebody on the block taking it at you, or one of the guards going at you off the dribble is probably as good as we could hope for in that situation.”

KU’s 22-point lead wasn’t exactly safe.

ISU needed just two minutes to slice the gap in half to 11 (57-46) with 9:31. KU led by only nine (64-55) at 4:09.

That’s when Chalmers knocked down a big three to up the lead back to double digits at 67-55 at 3:31.

“I think I was open. Coach says to knock down the open shots,” Chalmers said. “People had been hesitant lately. The coaches said, ‘Let it fly,’ and I think we did that. I think it was a team effort. We had the mind-set to getting back to playing Kansas basketball today.”

No doubt a major key to victory was feeding the ball to Arthur, who picked up four fouls but played 31 minutes. It’s the third time all year Arthur was able to top the 30-minute mark.

“I’d been getting a lot of touch fouls,” Arthur said. “Dumb fouls, reaching. I don’t think I had any tonight.”

He was happy the Jayhawks upped their league record to 4-3 on the road.

“The three losses hit us hard,” Arthur said of defeats at Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma State. “We tried to regroup today, and I think we did.”

“We showed toughness. They made some runs, and we answered them,” KU’s Robinson said. “This is a tough place to play, and we came away with a win.”

The Jayhawks next meet Kansas State at 8 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. Final home game will be another 8 p.m. game Monday versus Texas Tech.