Sunday, January 15, 2006


Keegan: Rush, KU still learning


He had just played 39 minutes and experienced the toughest loss of his life, and Brandon Rush did what he always does afterward. He stood up and answered every question without pointing a finger of blame.

Rush is an impressive young man in a lot of ways.

If he could just go to his left.

If he could do that, Kansas University would have a player who could get a shot off any time the team needed one. He's not there yet, as evidenced by K-State limiting Rush to eight field-goal attempts in a 59-55 shocker of a comeback victory over KU on Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.

"They were really overemphasizing jumping on my right hand," Rush said. "They were trying to force me to go left. Kentucky tried it, but I was still able to get around it. I can go both ways, but I like going to my right hand. My left is a little weak."

After suffering a broken left arm at the age of 10, Rush had surgery, but it never fully healed, isn't quite as developed as his right arm and even hangs a little awkwardly. Rush has been able to cross over to his left hand, bait the defender to follow, than go back to his right. Big-time athletics is nothing if not a series of adjustments, and K-State came prepared to keep from taking the bait. The Wildcats stayed on his right hand, limited him to 12 points and caused him to commit five turnovers.

"Brandon works on his left, and once he gets that he's going to be an unstoppable player," said Mario Chalmers, who led KU with 20 points in a season-high 34 minutes.

As Chalmers dominated defensively with steals and deflections and contributed 11 first-half points, it was easy to relish how far the team had come since losses to Arizona, Arkansas, Nevada and Saint Joseph's.

And then the Jayhawks regressed and managed but two field goals, including a Rush jumper with 50 seconds left, in the final 10 minutes against a spread-out 2-3 zone. Just as was the case against Arkansas, Nevada and St. Joe's, KU failed to get easy shots in the final possessions.

"We still don't have a guy we consider to be a go-to guy, and that's going to make it tough," KU coach Bill Self said. "We've got to be a team that's balanced, but it sure would be nice if we knew who to try to get stuff for from a daily standpoint, as opposed to maybe who has a hot hand that particular moment."

What's keeping Rush from being that guy?

"He's young and just is trying to figure it out," Self said. ": I probably played Brandon too many minutes, and that may have contributed to him not being as effective. He said he wasn't tired, but certainly we've got to do a better job of getting guys in there and hopefully put them in a position where they can knock down a shot and give us a boost."

This is still a team that will need a healthy Micah Downs to play and perform far better than he did with an injured hand at Colorado, where he committed four turnovers in seven minutes.

Even once that happens, KU will be a team that thrills with defensive pressure and fast-break offense and struggles to put points on the board for long stretches. Translation: a talented, young team that gets a lot better, then a little worse, then a lot better again.


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