Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Keegan: ‘Spurt’ saves KU — again


No matter how ugly it gets and how hopeless it might look at times, this young Kansas University basketball team never stops believing it's going to turn it on and sprint to a bunch of points in a hurry.

The flurry came late Monday night in Gallagher-Iba Arena, at the exact halfway point of the second half, and was so relentless it washed away a ton of sins, such as sloppy ballhandling, bad shooting and missed dunks.

In the end, KU prevailed over Oklahoma State, 64-49, in front of a loud crowd of 12,242 fans.

If you feel the compulsion to dart to the concession stand, or the fridge at home, to satisfy your sweet tooth during one of KU's games, show a little discipline, or you're liable to miss the most important slice of the game.

"We've become a decent spurt team," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said in the understatement of the century.

How's this for decent:

After Brandon Rush had the ball stolen from him for the second time by muscular talent Mario Boggan, Rush compounded the mistake by fouling Boggan as he went in for the basket. Boggan finished the three-point play to put the Cowboys up 42-39 with 10:12 left. That's when KU, winner of eight in a row and 15 of 17, went on a 16-2 run to put it away.

"That had nothing to do with it," Rush said, asked if his mistake somehow awakened the team. "It was just that time. We knew we needed to step up pretty big there."

As KU turned it on, an OSU team that played tight man-to-man defense and had the strength and quickness to stay with the favorites for most of the night appeared to tire and just couldn't keep up.

"I think we're in better shape (than other teams)," Rush said. "I think it's due to that treadmill. I don't like to talk about that treadmill too much, but I do think it's been good for us in some ways."

Conditioning certainly didn't appear to be a problem for fellow freshman Julian Wright, who played a huge role in the run with passes, points and rebounds.

Even Danny Manning, one of the great passers in the history of college basketball and now a stoic observer of the game from his seat on the Kansas University bench, had to shake his head and flash a hint of a smile. Wright had just whipped one of his marvelous no-look passes into the hands of Sasha Kaun for a bucket, and Manning appeared duly impressed.

Wright has that effect on those who watch him play in his unconventional way. His contributions are so wildly entertaining that even on a night his team played unsightly basketball for 30 minutes, he made it easy to forget about all that.

"The guards were doing a great job of getting to the paint and passing it to me, and I just made the extra pass," Wright said, down-playing his fancy passes.

All three of Wright's assists, two to Kaun and one to Mario Chalmers, came in the final 1:25 of the 16-2 run. Wright finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four turnovers.

The preseason pick for Big 12 Rookie of the Year, Wright is on course to finish third on his own team in that race, but to watch him do things guys his size just don't do is to realize he has given the Jayhawks everything they had hoped to get from him.

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