Some thoughts...from Omaha
Gary Bedore, Journal-World KU men's basketball beat writer
"It was a somewhat ugly but nice win for KU. This time of year it is indeed survive and advance. Collins and Robinson played very well the second half when it mattered. Too bad K-State lost, but the Wildcats had a nice season. As far as KU, the Jayhawks finally have some time to catch their collective breaths with no game until Friday in Detroit. Happy Easter today. It should be a nice relaxing day for fans after KU's big win on Saturday."
Tom Keegan, Journal-World sports editor
"Bill Self has assembled a roster built for the tournament. When the opponent runs its offense through its big man, Kansas has four big men to wear that big man down. When the opponent is on the small side, Self can always slide Brandon Rush down to the power forward spot. A fast pace is the best pace for Kansas, but the Jayhawks play strong enough defense to win grind-it-out games such as the one against UNLV. Kansas can win pretty and win ugly, which makes it as upset-proof as any team in the tournament."
Ryan Greene, KUSports.com
"The other day, Tom and I were racking our brains trying to remember who KU knocked off last year in the Tournament's second round in Chicago. It took awhile to recall the forgettable win over Kentucky. Saturday's KU victory over UNLV will ultimately fall under that same category, though the one play I'll remember was Sherron Collins taking an inbounds pass with five seconds left on the shot clock in a second half possession. He stormed right to the rack and scored what looked like an easy bucket. He's been flat-out sensational over the last couple of weeks. It'll be interesting to see how different KU is this year in the Tournament's second weekend compared to last year with a healthy Collins controlling things off the bench this time around."
Inside the numbers
4: UNLV struggled to convert field goals all night, but in the second half, things got beyond tough for the Rebels. On the night, UNLV was 12-of-45 from the floor, but after the break could hit just four shots. Things got especially tough after Joe Darger fouled out of the game with 9:33 left to play.
23: Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins combined to score 23 points for the Jayhawks, with the bulk of those coming on drives to the bucket on high-percentage looks. Those shots helped alleviate the pressure UNLV applied for much of the game and helped open up looks for others. Those points were scored on efficient 9-of-13 shooting between the two.
46: Calling this game pretty would be a complete injustice. It was like a domino effect from the start. UNLV guarded especially tough in the onset, so KU responded with extra defensive intensity of its own. Then the refs started to ease it up on both sides, or so they thought, by getting touchy with the whistles. In the end, you had a choppy game interrupted many times by a total of 46 foul calls.
25: UNLV's lone offensive spark all night was junior guard Wink Adams. The Rebels' leading scorer on the season led all participants with 25 points, but he earned every single one of them, finding his niche and getting to the free throw line repeatedly. He was 15-of-17 from the free throw line, but just 5-of-13 from the floor.
23: The guards stole the show in this one offensively for the Jayhawks, with KU's four forward rotation (Jackson, Arthur, Aldrich, Kaun) combining for just 23 points. Aside from the aforementioned points from Robinson and Collins, Mario Chalmers led KU with 17 points and Brandon Rush added 12.
Just in case you missed it...
KU got back to winning a different way after using the three-point bomb and transition game hand-in-hand the last three games to outlast opponents. The Jayhawks again proved they could win a slowed down game, hitting just five three-pointers Saturday. This was the definition of a grinder, which of course you have to experience during any long Tournament journey.
Hopefully you didn't miss it...
The Jayhawks' depth proved to be more valuable than anything Saturday night against the undermanned Rebels. With the refs calling things as tight as they were, KU simply had more bodies, fresh legs and, well, fouls to throw at its opponent than UNLV did, with the gassed Rebels simply trying to keep up later in the contest. Of the game's 46 fouls, KU was responsible for 26 of them.
Also, Brandon Rush's incredible-yet-natural leaping ability paid off when KU went with a smaller lineup Saturday, as he made six rebounds look unbelievably easy. This could come into play again down the road against smaller opponents (like Siena or Villanova).
They said it...
Mario Chalmers on the Rebels' early defensive pressure: "We could tell. We knew they were a pressure team. I think they tried to come out and punk us, but we didn't back down, we just kept fighting with 'em."
Sherron Collins on KU's depth paying off: "Somebody like Terry or Wink went out, it was a little bit easier to handle the pressure and handle their guards because they weren't all scorers like that. They got in foul trouble, and it played into our hand."
Sherron Collins on KU's guard-heavy offensive attack: "Every time we threw the ball into the bigs, everybody collapsed on them. When we went small, it was a mismatch problem out there somewhere. We just ran a lot of cutting, moving, caught them at awkward times and were able to make a play."
Sherron Collins on being healthy entering regionals: "I think it's good for our team, because I'm able to do a lot of things, like break down defenses and get easy shots for my teammates. I'm like the release button. If the pressure's out there, I take pride in getting the ball and making something happen. Being a spark plug off the bench, that's what I do."
Bill Self on Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins: "I thought that those two took the game over. We went to a little spread-and-drive-it mode and they did a great job of getting in there. Mario was solid, Brandon was solid, our bigs didn't score as much because of the way they defended, but I really felt like midway through the second half it was those two's game."
Bill Self on his team's defense: "Our first shot defense was good. I'll be excited to see the film to see if it was as good as I thought it was. We rebounded it pretty good, we defended it pretty good, we just put our hands on them too much. And they put their hands on us too much. it was obviously a tightly-called game. But that was a good defensive effort."
Bill Self on having Sherron Collins healthy in the Tournament's second weekend unlike last year: "The thing about it is Sherron, he didn't practice yesterday. He couldn't move. The doctors talked to him today and told him 'Hey, you're fine. You've got a bruised knee again. It's gonna be sore, but you've gotta suck it up and go do it.' I thought he was really good. And he's a different element to our team. Because he can go get you a basket. The biggest basket of the game may have been five seconds on the shot clock and he goes and makes a play. That's not coaching. That's just getting the ball to a guy and getting out of his way. And he can go make a basket that you don't have to run offense for or break the defense down. So it's great to have guys like that, especially this time of year."