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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Keegan

Keegan: UCLA had edge in poise

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— Missed the West Regional final and don't have time to watch the entire replay? Just watch the last first-half possession for each team and you've seen it all.

Mario Chalmers drove to the hoop, missed the shot, got the rebound and dished to Kansas University backcourtmate Russell Robinson, who missed a gimme with 22 seconds left.

At the other end, UCLA had a chance to attack right away, but made the wise decision to pull back and work for a final shot. Arron Afflalo tried to drive past Brandon Rush, couldn't, and found Josh Shipp in the left corner. Shipp hit a three-point shot at the buzzer.

It was like that all day. The younger team, less tested in such big games, blew easy opportunities. The Bruins, headed to their second consecutive Final Four after a 68-55 victory Saturday night, made clutch shots with time expiring.

Kansas never used the youth excuse through a season packed with highlights because it didn't apply. In this game, it did. That's not an excuse. That's a fact.

Rush, Darnell Jackson and Russell Robinson, all 21, combined for 37 points. Younger teammates Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins and Julian Wright totaled 14 points.

Kansas, with the exception of Rush, played like a jittery team. UCLA played like one that had been there, done that.

Afterward, every wave of reporters that visited Rush at his locker asked if he'll return. A year ago, when asked that question after the Bradley loss, he assured he would come back. This time, he dodged the issue repeatedly. Perhaps hoping it would make the question go away for the rest of the night at least, he talked about next season.

"We'll be better," Rush said. "We'll be more experienced. This will be our third year together, and we'll learn how to play in big games like this."

What will be the most important lesson learned from the loss?

"Don't get rattled," Rush said. "Don't get nervous. Play our type of game. I think we got sped up a little bit. We weren't doing things we were supposed to do. Part of it was their defense. It seemed like it was open, but it wasn't. Every time we tried to do something, they closed down on us."

Rush led Kansas with 18 points. Afflalo had 24 points, a number of which came when Rush was on the bench or had switched onto another man.

"They're a tough team," Rush said of the Bruins. "They've been here before. They had experience to know how to play in these games."

Rush called the loss "very disappointing. We had big expectations for all our Jayhawk fans."

Audio clips

2006-07 March 24 KU-UCLA Hoops

Kansas finished 33-5, one game away from the Final Four for the second time in four years, a successful season by any measure and an entertaining journey that fell just short, like so many KU free throws in HP Pavilion, where the Jayhawks made 15 of 30 from the line in the two games.

"We won two championships, got past that first-round hump, and we got to the Elite Eight," Rush said. "So I think our fans would be proud."

Proud of the season, disappointed in its final day. Only one team won't be.

"The season's over, and we've got to watch UCLA go to the Final Four right now," Rush said. "That really hurts."

Comments

Kirk 13 years, 2 months ago

Rush's comment -- that UCLA has "been here before" and benefitted from that experience -- could prove ironic.

If Rush goes to the NBA, if everyone always goes to the NBA after a year or two, we'll NEVER have the requisite experience to take that final step forward in the tournament.

Lin Rahardja 13 years, 2 months ago

KU will be much better if Rush stays. He is right, the Bruins was poised, they looked look like they have been there before. We should intensify our schedule next year for better preparation.

Rush's utilization in the NBA currently will be limited to a role player. However, if he further develops on creating his own shots, he will be one of the stars and have a longer tenure in the NBA.

Chris McIlvain 13 years, 2 months ago

Poor Jayhawk fans! Wake up...this is as good as it gets! Great regular season success = post-season disappointment. Just check the history books. The 3rd winningest program in history has ONE championship in the last 20 years...when KU was seeded as a 6th seed. The one before that was 36 years earlier. I understand denial is human nature, but come on...

Chris McIlvain 13 years, 2 months ago

Roy Williams is 13 minutes from taking North Carolina to it's 2nd Final Four in 4 years. I can only imagine how heart-wrenching it's going to be for most KU fans when he wins his 2nd National Championship in 4 years with that team! But let's keep singing the praises of Bill Self! LOL!!!

baceman 13 years, 2 months ago

APD, get a clue. Roy won his "championship" with Dougherty's players, not his. He also lost today which is what he did while here. Bill has HIS team and will continue to climb the ladder to success one step at a time.

Chris McIlvain 13 years, 2 months ago

Well, like I've said before...you can take Roy out of Kansas but not Kansas out of Roy! Classic Kansas post-season meltdown dressed in Carolina blue! Go Heels!

William James 13 years, 2 months ago

UCLA might have had an edge in poise but they also had an edge in prayers at the buzzer.

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