Sophomore guard Mario Chalmers, who missed the Jayhawks' exhibition finale against Emporia State with a sprained big toe, is back in uniform tonight for the Jayhawks, as they open the regular season with a 7 p.m. tip-off at home against Northern Arizona.
The Anchorage, Alaska, native scored 12 points and dished out four assists in the Jayhawks' exhibition opener, a 99-69 win over Washburn on Nov. 2. With Chalmers dressing out, the only two KU hoopsters still modeling street clothes are junior guard Jeremy Case (groin) and junior forward Sasha Kaun (knee).
Northern Arizona enjoyed just a one-game exhibition season, but it was successful nonetheless. The Lumberjacks took down Ft. Lewis in their lone tune-up, 86-74.
After drawing a foul away from the ball just seconds into the game, Darnell Jackson, then scored the game's first points on a tough inside move between a pair of defenders. He did the deed again on the Jayhawks' next possession, this time in the form of a two-handed slam on a fastbreak feed from Brandon Rush.
After Josh Wilson got Northern Arizona on the scoreboard with a 12-foot jumper, Rush scored the game's next five points. he hit a long tow, followed by a three from just a few feet away from the same spot on a give-and-go with Jackson.
Jackson inadvertently helped the Lumberjacks out by tipping in a Tyrone Brazy miss on the other end, but a long Julian Wright jumper and a three-ball from Sherron Collins - his first official KU points - have KU up 14-7 with 15:50 to go in the first half.
Collins hit another three right out of the game's first timeout, and it was followed by freshman Darrell Arthur checking in for the first time, as well as sophomore Mario Chalmers, who missed KU's exhibition finale against Emporia State last Thursday with a sprained big toe.
The Lumberjacks finally found an offensive rhythm, though, as Bazy hit a jumper on the baseline, followed by a soft baby hook from Kyle Landry pulled NAU to within six at 17-11.
Chalmers hit one of two free throws after nearly making a miraculous hoop with harm, and then made a defensive highlight of his own, forcing a five-second call on the other end. Julian Wright responded wtih his second field goal of the night. Rush did him one better by making his third bucket on a pull-up jumper on the right wing to make it a 22-11 contest.
A Northern Arizona bucket pulled them within nine points, 22-13, headed into a television timeout with 11:51 to go in the first half.
Arthur had his turn after the timeout to get in the books officially. Following a pair of free throws, he hit a short baseline jumper, and then tipped in a Darnell Jackson miss from close range. Following that hoop, Russell Robinson forced NAU to call a quick timeout, as he stole the inbounds pass, ducked a defender and dropped in the easy deuce to give KU a commanding 30-13 lead.
Sir ended NAU's offensive drought out of the timeout with his second three of the game, but KU answered quickly with Robinson hitting a slashing Rush for his easiest two points of the game. He leads all scorers with nine.
Robinson again applied the defensive grips, this time wtih another steal past midcourt. He was fouled and hit both sides of the one-and-one. His third straight steal netted an easy dunk in transition for Wright, who got a little nervous with having so much open court around him that he nearly dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds. He instead recovered and made it look simple with no one still around.
The stuff pushed KU's lead to 20 points at 36-16 with just under eight minutes to go until intermission.
Robinson continued KU's knack for the dramatic out of timeouts by hitting a wide open three in the corner to give him seven points so far in the game. Collins then on the next possession worked his 5-foot-11, 200-pound stocky frame down the baseline for a tough layin against NAU's height while avoiding a charging call.
A Deveric Taylor three-pointer with a hand in his face continued a quick 7-0 NAU spurt, but Jackson answered on the other end for KU with a tough inside basket while draped by a defender. The bucket gave KU a 43-25 lead heading into the half's final television timeout with 3:38 to go.
Jackson hit the free throw out of the timeout, and then made one of two on the next possession to push KU's lead back to 20 at 45-25. The free throws gave him eight points. Russell Robinson added two free throws of his own after that, taking advantage of the double bonus.
A Brandon Rush two made him the first player in double figures with 11 points, and after forcing yet another NAU turnover, Mario Chalmers squeezed past a Julian Wright screen for a layup, putting KU up 51-25.
Brandon Rush missed a three-pointer right before the half, but KU finished the first 20 minutes of gameplay on a 20-0 run.
KU shot an impressive 19-of-31 from the floor in the first half, compared to NAU's 10-of-30 performance. The Jayhawks also outrebounded the Lumberjacks 20-13, and even more importantly, KU has forced 11 NAU turnovers.
pointer atop the key from Julian Wright.
NAU's Stephen Sir, the nation's leading returning three-point shooter from a year ago, responded with his third trey of the game, but just as he did in the first half, Jackson was able to show some polished post moves for a pair of inside baskets. He now leads all scorers with 12 points, followed by 11 from Brandon Rush.
Rush took that lead back though wtih a pull-up jumper after grabbing an impressive rebound he tipped to himself - his fourth of the night. Wright got himself into double figures on the next possession with a a tip-in, and after another Jackson defensive board, Wright scored again in transition on a feed from Rush.
Chalmers then registered a steal, swiping it to Robinson who attempted an alley-oop feed to Chalmers. The flush rung out, but Rush was there for a simple follow. The run has made KU's lead practically out of hand at 66-32 with 14:52 to go in the game.
Any rumor of Free State product Brady Morningstar redshirting this season was put to rest when he checked into the game right out of the timeout.
Collins became the fourth Jayhawk in the game to move into double figures by hitting two-of-three free throws following an obstructed attempt beyond the arc. The third missed, but was followed by Julian Wright, giving him 15 points on the night.
After a few dull minutes, Brady Morningstar got things picked up by throwing a beautiful lob for Darrell Arthur, who caught the ball two feet above the rim and sent it home one-handed. It was followed by a Mario Chalmers steal in which he was able to walk in and throw down a one-handed dunk of his own. It pushed KU's lead to an insurmountable 40 points at 74-34 with 11:10 to go.
Arthur's pair of free throws on another opportunity set up by Morningstar made him the fifth Jayhawk to get in the double figures grouping.
KU has started to empty the bench, as Rodrick Stewart and Matt Kleinmann are seeing extended minutes, and have made the most of them. Both have been integral on the defensive end as KU is coasting to the finish, holding a 78-44 lead with 6:48 to go.
After Darrell Arthur swatted away a Ryan McCurdy face-up attempt, he was rewarded on the other end with an easy jam underneath on a nifty dish from Rush.
That was followed by Julian Wright pinning a Bernard Burrell breakaway layup against the glass, and on the other end, Rush bumped his point total to 19 with yet another three-pointer. Rush moved to 21 on the night on the ensuing trip, giving KU one last burst of offense for the night, and getting the lead to 38 points at 87-49.
A Nathan Geiser three-pointer right before the night's final T.V. timeout made it 87-52.
Morningstar scored his first official KU hoop with less than a minute to go, and walk-ons Brad Witherspoon and Brennan Bechard became the final Jayhawks to enter the game, as well.
KU opens its season with a 91-57 win, as Brandon Rush led five KU players in double figures with 21 points.