Kansas 88, Kentucky 76

Sunday, March 18th 2007, 7:06 pm
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Let Kentucky have the past. Kansas owns the present.

And with a few more performances like this, the loaded Jayhawks might be making some more history of their own.

Chicago native Julian Wright scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, Brandon Rush added 19 and top-seeded Kansas romped past Kentucky 88-76 in a matchup of two of the game's most storied programs in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday.

Mario Chalmers added 16 for the Jayhawks, who shot a blistering 57 percent to win their 13th in a row. Kansas (32-4) will play fourth-seeded Southern Illinois on Thursday in the West Regional semifinals in San Jose, Calif.

Kentucky is the winningest program in college history while Kansas claims Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game. The Wildcats had won 19 of the previous 24 meetings between the two teams, but Kansas has had the edge recently.

This rout was practically a repeat of last year's meeting between the teams in Lawrence, Kan. Rush led the way in that one, a 73-46 blowout that was Kentucky's worst loss in Tubby Smith's 10 years as coach.

The eighth-seeded Wildcats didn't have Randolph Morris in that one, as he served out a 14-game suspension for entering the 2005 NBA draft. But his presence Sunday made little difference as Kentucky (22-12) lost for the seventh time in 11 games.

Morris finished with 22 points, including 14 from the line. Bobby Perry added 21.

The loss is sure to create more problems for Smith. Despite winning a national championship and five Southeastern Conference titles in his 10 years at Kentucky, Smith has been criticized by the Wildcats faithful in recent weeks for ``underachieving.''

Athletic director Mitch Barnhart gave Smith a vote of confidence after the SEC tournament, but the fact it was needed shows just how far from favor Smith has fallen.

Rush opened the second half with a 3 that gave Kansas a nine-point lead, its largest of the game to that point. Perry responded with back-to-back 3s that pulled Kentucky within 39-36 with 18:51 left to play.

But Morris left the game after picking up his third foul with 17:46 still to play. And just like last year, the Jayhawks steamrolled Kentucky with Morris on the bench.

Wright made a jumper and scored on a follow as Kansas ran off eight unanswered points as part of a 13-2 run. An irritated Smith called a timeout, and Sheray Thomas stopped the Kansas run with a layup afterward.

It had all the effect of a speed bump. Wright scored again, this time on a layup, and Rush hit another 3-pointer that extended Kansas' lead to 54-40 and brought the Kansas faithful _ including Chicago Bull Kirk Hinrich, a member of the 2003 Kansas team that lost to Syracuse in the NCAA final _ to its feet.

Morris returned with just over 12 minutes to play, but the damage was done. Kansas had found its legs.

Jackson beat the shot clock buzzer on a layup, and Collins fed Robinson for a fastbreak layup that put the Jayhawks up 62-47 with 9:02 to play. It was showtime after that, as the Jayhawks put their considerable skills on display with a dizzying array of fast breaks, slick passes and shots that Hinrich's NBA colleagues would envy.