Wright, Collins Highlight KU Win

Julian Wright went off for 19 second-half points en route to a game-high 23 and Sherron Collins stepped up for a flu-bitten teammate as Kansas beat Rhode Island, 80-69, Saturday night in Allen Field House.

“You look at Sherron and Julian, those two guys played,” Self summarized.

KU coach Bill Self called Julian Wright’s performance “fabulous” but didn’t mince words about his sophomore forward’s quiet first half.

“Let’s just call it like it is: the first two times he touched (the ball), he had shots and he tried to pass it,” Self said. “The second half, he squared up and he made basketball plays. He was aggressive, he looked for his shot, every shot he took was a good shot. If guys came to him, he was able to pass the basketball. He just played. It wasn’t that he let the game come to him; he just took advantage of the situations in the game, and that’s what he’s got to do.”

Wright started the game on the KU bench, having arrived late to practice Friday. Roderick Stewart got the start in his place. Wright still played 31 minutes.

“I was just trying to take easy possessions and make the most of them instead of trying to complicate everything,” he said. “Just tried to make the game simpler.”

Meanwhile, in the backcourt, Russell Robinson assumed the role of Wally Pipp. Despite taking  his usual spot in the starting line-up at tip-off, he was unable to play in the second half due to the flu. Enter Sherron Collins.

Collins scored 11 second-half points on 3-of-4 shooting and dealt five assists against just one turnover. He finished the night with 13 points and added a block in the first half.

Collins showed the slashing and playmaking ability that made him a McDonald’s All-American, getting into the lane often, drawing defenders and making pinpoint passes to open teammates for short jump shots, lay-ups and dunks.

Self was very pleased with the rookie’s effort. “Sherron, this was the best game he’s had since he’s been here,” the coach acknowledged. “Great floor game, made good decisions, shot the ball well, defended well. He did a good job.”

“I just tried to be aggressive, guard, just try to run the offense,” Collins said, matter-of-factly.

Brandon Rush added 19 points, playing two good halves offensively. He also grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots.

Mario Chalmers continued to play well, scoring 12, handing out five assists and appropriating  five steals. Self credited Chalmers with containing Rams leading scorer, Jimmy Baron. Baron scored nine points, nearly seven below his season average, and six of those were bombs from just inside the Douglas County line with under a minute left to keep the score respectable. Baron shot just 3-of-9 on the night.

Overall, Rhode Island shot just 36.6% for the game, including a dismal 20.5% in the first half.

In addition, Rhode Island guard Parfait Bitee had eight points and three rebounds in the losing effort. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about that except that his name is Parfait Bitee.

Next up for the Jayhawks: the team will have a full week of practice before taking on their second USC of the 2006-07 campaign – South Carolina – and venerable coach Dave Odom in a road game on Sunday, January 7th.

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