No. 4 Kansas 'Rushes' Past Arizona

Monday, November 26th 2007, 7:32 am
By: News On 6

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Brandon Rush's midcourt heave at the buzzer nearly went in off the backboard, then bounced against the front of the rim, hanging there for a tantalizing second before falling away.

Rush couldn't win the game for the fourth-ranked Jayhawks in regulation, so in overtime he scored five of his 17 points to help Kansas survive its first big test of the season, holding off Arizona 76-72 on Sunday night.

And Kansas coach Bill Self was actually glad Rush's attempt at a buzzer-beater barely missed the mark.

``I'm glad it didn't go in because we need to play five more competitive minutes like that and have some good things happen,'' Self said. ``I mean I would have been really glad had it gone in, but since we won the game we needed those 5 minutes to execute with the pressure on us.''

Kansas (5-0) opened the season with four victories, winning by an average of 31.2 points. But those wins came against the likes of Northern Arizona, Louisiana-Monroe and Division II Washburn, not really giving the Jayhawks much to gauge themselves against.

A win over Arizona (3-2), with budding stars Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless, would certainly give Kansas a fair assessment of just how good it can be.

Despite scoring all but 14 of their points from the lane and the free-throw line, the Jayhawks passed the test, getting 20 points from Darrell Arthur and 14 from Mario Chalmers for their best start since opening the 2004-05 season with 14 wins.

``I feel pretty good about the way we responded,'' Arthur said. ``I thought we played pretty good down the stretch.''

In other Top 25 games, it was: No. 9 Washington State 71, Air Force 62; No. 13 Duke 78, Eastern Kentucky 43; No. 18 Kansas State 82, Rider 69; Southern California 70, No. 19 S. Illinois 45; and North Carolina State 69, No. 19 Villanova 68.

Arizona didn't make it easy.

The Wildcats rallied from a sluggish start, with Budinger hitting six 3-pointers on his way to 27 points and Bayless hitting big shots down the stretch, finishing with 19.

What hurt Arizona was turnovers.

The Wildcats, playing their fifth straight game under coach Kevin O'Neill while Hall of Famer Lute Olson is on a leave of absence for personal reasons, had 25 turnovers _ seven by Bayless _ yet somehow still had a chance to win.

``A lot of people doubt this team, but I think tonight's performance shows that we can play with anybody in the country,'' Budinger said. ``As you can see, our team has been getting better each game and we are continuing to improve.''

So is Rush.

The junior guard expected to be playing in the NBA this season, but a torn ACL during a pickup game over the summer changed his plans.

After being eased back into the lineup his first two games back, Rush was much more of a factor against the Wildcats, driving hard to the basket, and bouncing up quickly after hitting the floor hard a couple of times.

After barely missing a miracle shot at the end of regulation, Rush scored on a breakaway dunk to put Kansas up 73-65 in overtime, then burst along the baseline for an alley-oop to seal the Jayhawks' hard-fought win.

Rush played 36 minutes _ eight more than his first two games combined _ hitting six of 12 shots.

``It felt pretty good to get out there and just play,'' Rush said. ``I've been looking forward to playing an entire game. I feel fine.''

Neither team led by more than four in a back-and-forth second half, setting up the type of finish everyone expected between two powerhouse programs.

Budinger put Arizona up 62-60 with a pull-up jumper along the baseline with 86 seconds left, then Chalmers hit two free throws to tie it with 27 seconds left, giving Arizona a chance for the final shot.

The Wildcats worked the clock down as Budinger tried to free himself for the winning shot, but Bret Brielmaier intercepted the pass and his jumper from the wing fell short.

No. 9 Washington State 71, Air Force 62

At Spokane, Wash., Derrick Low made six second-half 3-pointers and scored 19 points to help Washington State (6-0) beat Air Force in the Cougar Hispanic College Fund Challenge.

Tim Anderson scored 15 for Air Force (5-2), which lost its second consecutive game. Evan Washington added 14.

No. 13 Duke 78, Eastern Kentucky 43

At Durham, N.C., Freshman Taylor King scored a career-high 27 points to lead Duke (6-0) to a rout of Eastern Kentucky.

Adam Leonard had 12 points and leading scorer Mike Rose added 11 for Eastern Kentucky (2-3), an NCAA tournament team last season that lost its 11th straight game against a ranked opponent.

No. 18 Kansas State 82, Rider 69

At Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Andre Gilbert scored 22 points, Jacob Pullen added 19 points and five assists and Kansas State (5-1) held off Rider in the Old Spice Classic.

Jason Thompson led Rider (3-3) with 23 points. Young brother Ryan Thompson added 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Southern California 70, No. 19 S. Illinois 45

At Anaheim, Calif., Freshman Davon Jefferson scored 18 points and Southern California (5-1) blew out Southern Illinois in the second half in the inaugural Anaheim Classic title game.

Randal Falker led the cold-shooting Salukis (3-1) with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

North Carolina State 69, No. 20 Villanova 68

At Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Gavin Grant hit two of three free throws with 0.4 seconds left and North Carolina State beat Villanova (4-1) to win the Old Spice Classic Championship.

Courtney Fells had 21 points for N.C. State (4-1), while J.J. Hickson and Grant each added 15.