Fueled by the Kansas City native’s 24 points and 11 rebounds, the young Jayhawks fought off shooting struggles to run a tired Texas Tech squad out of the gym during an 86-52 blowout.
The win, televised nationally on ESPN 2, moved the Jayhawks to 11-2 over their last 13 games, 14-6 overall and 5-2 in Big 12 play.
We played well. We shot the ball well. We didn't shoot well from the perimeter in the first half, but the second half was better,” said a relaxed Bill Self after the easy win. “We are getting better. Everyone had a chance to contribute tonight. We are nowhere close to where we can be but I think we are building every day."
As soon as the ball tipped, Self’s Jayhawks were in attacking mode looking to wear down a Tech team that had just survived an overtime thriller at home against Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon. While Brandon Rush and fellow starting guards Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers were off the mark early, their young big men led by sophomore Sasha Kaun seized control on the inside as Kansas raced to a 15-4 lead in the first five minutes and 17 seconds of the game.
"The good thing about our team is that we have such a talented group; anyone can contribute at any time,” said Kaun who finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks in just 20 minutes of action. “One game it may be the guards, and the next it's the big guys. The inside play tonight was defiinitely good for my confidence."
Self agreed that the early work turned in on the glass by Kaun and his inside counterparts Darnell Jackson -- 10 points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes -- and Julian Wright helped his squad establish a 43-25 halftime margin despite poor shooting from the perimeter.
“We really did a good job on the glass,” said Self of a team that out rebounded Tech 55 to 28. “We missed 22 shots in the first half and we get 12 of them back. We’re not usually that good on the offensive glass.”
Despite the re-emergence of Kansas’ inside game, the evening clearly belonged to Rush. Whether he was thrilling the crowd with breakaway slams, deep threes or his quick hands on defense, the 20 year old stood out among his peers.
Having scored at least 20 points in each of his last three Big 12 games, Rush is riding a wave of confidence and it shows with how much more comfortable he’s gotten with the media. Usually shy and quiet, Rush joked confidently afterwards.
“I was just trying to get on ESPN’s top 10,” joked Rush. “Julian had made it a couple of times and I was just trying to get on there too.”
Jokes about making the ESPN highlights aside Rush has proven that he is a team player and despite the media’s attempts to get him to talk about himself, he focused on the team and their goals.
“I think I’ve proved that I can soot pretty good and take my man off the dribble,” said Rush. “I’m trying to help my team win. I don’t really care about the personal awards. They would be good, but I’m just trying to help Kansas win games right now.”
With Oklahoma up next, Rush and his teammates are watching the Big 12 race closely.
“We talk a lot about winning the Big 12, that would be big for us,” said Rush. “We’re just trying to win one game at a time.”