Kansas looked like a team that should be mentioned as one of the best in America throughout the first half. The defense was stingy as Nebraska spent most of the half in single-digits. The offense executed with precision and the passing was deft and unselfish. NU head coach Doc Sadler decided he was going to give KU the outside jumper early and Bill Self’s perimeter players answered. The Jayhawks never let the red-clad Lincoln crowd get into this one.
The Jayhawks followed Self’s game plan to a “T” early neutralizing big man Aleks Maric who went 0-2 in the first half with two turnovers. KU’s head coach was pleasantly surprised at how his team neutralized Maric early on.
“Yes I was. I thought our perimeter guys were good enough that it didn’t allow easy passes to him in the post, and he got a couple of fouls early which helped us a lot,” Self continued. “I thought we defended him well in the first half, second half I didn’t think we defended him as well, but the first half we did a pretty good job on him because he’s a very good offensive player.”
Nebraska found it difficult trying to solve KU’s tough man-to-man defense going nearly 14 minutes without scoring. With 2:26 left in the half, Jay-R Strowbridge finally broke Nebraska’s mammoth drought with a driving layup plus the foul. The score was now 39-8!
“We played great early. That’s about as well as you can execute. We shot it, we defended, we rebounded, took care of it. That was about the best 17 minutes a team can play,” said Self praising his first place team.
Needless to say it was game, set, match. Yes, Kansas lost its focus after sprinting out of the gates but it all adds up to a conference road win by a comfortable margin.
“Guys were playing pretty loose in the second half and I thought Nebraska played hard,” according to Self who’s team takes on Texas A&M at home on Saturday in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
Looking forward to Saturday’s battle with the Aggies, Brandon Rush certainly seems to be rounding into form. The sophomore, who was named to the Wooden mid-season All-America team, is playing with renewed vigor and aggressiveness. Rush is averaging close to 20 points in his last three games and is shooting over 55 percent from the floor in those contests. This is a good sign heading into the A&M game on Saturday. Rush’s jumper looks smooth and he is really stroking it from long range. The early season slump seems a distant memory and Rush appears to be rounding into form as the go-to player he should be.
The player who has impressed me the most is Sherron Collins. The freshman guard continues to be a spark plug and is turning into the oncourt leader Self always thought he’d become for this team. Collins has a spring in his step and a confidence that was missing at times early on. Though Collins didn’t have a great game by his standards on Monday, he’s won a couple of games for KU this season and will likely be responsible for a couple of more key “W’s”. With a ton of big games on the horizon for this team it’s great to have a guy like Sherron that seems to embrace the challenge and wants to perform on the big stage.
Self called out KU’s frontline over the weekend in what appears to be a cleverly timed tirade. The KU coach felt his “bigs” were playing very soft. He needed this group to respond before matching up with a super tough Aggie squad. At least on the glass, the Jayhawks responded out-rebounding Nebraska, 47-21. Julian Wright, who drew the ire of his coach on Saturday, answered with 17 points and played inspired ball all night long. Freshman Darrell Arthur was efficient shooting 5-7 from the floor with 12 points and seven rebounds. The negative was Sasha Kaun’s oh-fer. No points, 0-5 from the floor and only one rebound in 12 minutes of play. KU will need more than that from the junior center against the Aggies.