Northern Arizona coach Mike Adras has faced Texas Tech, Arizona and Arizona State in the last four years, and he said none of those squads could match the talent Kansas University displayed in its 91-57 victory Saturday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
"There's no question," Adras said. "This is probably the best team I've ever played against."
Adras said the Lumberjacks, whose 21-11 squad won the Big Sky Conference regular-season title last year, wanted to force KU into executing from halfcourt sets. But Kansas turned the game into a track meet by scoring 28 points off turnovers. Once the Jayhawks started running, they seemingly came in waves.
"They just keep coming and coming," Adras said. "We were in the 39th minute, and they were still going at it, attacking."
Along with a pedal-to-the-metal style, KU showcased players such as Brandon Rush, Julian Wright, and Russell Robinson, who can score in various ways. Defending such versatile players became a matchup nightmare for the Lumberjacks.
"Their posts are all interchangeable," Adras said. "Their guards are completely interchangeable. You don't know where you're at and who's hitting you next."
The Lumberjacks also praised the KU defense, which forced them into 33 percent shooting.
No Northern Arizona player scored more than 12 points. Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur limited forward Ruben Boykin Jr., Northern Arizona's leading scorer last year at 13.3 points per game, to four points on 1-of-8 shooting.
"They're strong, physical, real athletic," Boykin said.
Jackson, who started in the post, had 12 points and eight rebounds. Boykin called former Arizona Wildcat and current New York Knick Channing Frye the best he ever had played against, but Jackson's physical play impressed him. And Boykin deemed him one of the 10 best players he has faced.
"He's up there," Boykin said.
Rush also had a strong defensive game, limiting guard Stephen Sir, who shot a nation's-best 48.9 percent from three-point range last year, to nine points by using his wingspan and catch-up speed to cover much of the court in a hurry.
"He could be off me and still get to the shot because he's got such long arms," Sir said. "He's athletic. He disrupts you."
Offensively, Rush led all scorers with 21 points, displaying an array of drives to the basket while nailing two threes. Such a well-rounded game left Sir wanting to grab a part of the Rush gene pool.
"I hope my kid's like that one day, but I doubt he will be," Sir said. "He's a really good player."
As the only NCAA team in the country to play two top-10 teams in the first week of the season, Northern Arizona will see some of college basketball's best. Following Saturday's dismantling, the Lumberjacks play Arizona State on Monday and No. 10 Arizona on Wednesday.
"If it doesn't kill us, maybe we can get a little bit stronger," Adras said. "I'll have my head re-examined eventually."