One night after watching Missouri QB Chase Daniels shred the Kansas defense with laser-like precision, it was Arizona sophomore Chase Budinger who tried to do the same to the Kansas basketball team. Maybe it was a football hangover, maybe it was just an off night however you choose to describe it Kansas came perilously close to loss number one on the season.
Arizona entered the game without its head coach on the sideline and searching for an identity. Remember, this was a Wildcat team that struggled at home with Northern Arizona – a team that KU beat by 41. And a Zona squad that gave up over 50 percent shooting from the floor in a home loss by Virginia. That probably explains why the oddsmakers thought this one would go to KU by double-digits.
First let's start with what went right. Kansas had enough resiliency on an off night to pull out a win in overtime, 76-72. KU was almost saved at the buzzer in regulation by a last second Brandon Rush heave that seemingly hung on the rim for an eternity, and then fell off. But there were a handful of players who stepped up and pulled this team through a close overtime victory. Brandon Rush, Rodrick Stewart, Mario Chalmers, and Darrell Arthur all made big plays with the game on the line – a terrific sign.
Secondly, Rodrick Stewart brought it all to the court on Sunday. His energy level was invaluable on a night when Russell Robinson was ineffective and the other guards failed to really rev the engine up a notch. There's a reason why KU head coach Bill Self has been touting Rodrick since the summer as a key contributor this season. Plagued by foul trouble, and without Sherron Collins, Rodrick helped his team weather the storm with 13 points and six rebounds.
Despite a couple of mental lapses, Darrell Arthur showed he's a force to reckon with 20 points and six rebounds. If Shady can continue to hit the midrange shot with regularity, the sky is the limit. He will be a tough matchup for anyone.
Brandon Rush proved once again, that he may have had knee surgery but the surgery did not affect his pretty jump shot from long range. Clearly his first step isn't quite back yet but if you leave him open, he will make you pay. Rush made Arizona pay by not making him put it on the floor enough. Rush was 6-12 from the floor with 17 points and grabbed a team-leading eight rebounds. Rush reached the 1000 point plateau at KU after his second free throw in overtime which made the score 74-70 in favor of KU.
But of course, there are the reasons KU was in a tussle with Arizona in the first place.
It was definitely quite an eye-opening performance from Arizona's version of the killer B's– that's Bayless and Budinger. No one could shutdown Chase Budinger. Kansas tried a myriad of defenders on Zona's super soph but it turns out the only thing that stopped him was giving a foul with the Cats down three, with less than 30 seconds left in overtime. Budinger fouled out after going 6-12 from three with 27 points. This kid is a big-time player.
As for freshman Jarryd Bayless, he just had too much speed and quickness for Kansas all night. Bayless finished with 19 points but did have seven turnovers.
Rebounding continues to be a concern for KU. If you didn't think it was coming into this game you know now that this is a weakness for Kansas. Rush had eight rebounds which was more than Sasha Kaun (2) and Darnell Jackson (5) combined! When all was said and done a smaller Arizona squad outrebounded KU by six (38-29). Coming into this game Kansas had yet to outrebound an opponent by more than seven all season and when you're playing the likes of Washburn, Northern Arizona, UMKC, and Louisiana-Monroe, that's hard to believe.
Kansas continues to have too many mental lapses. Poor free throw shooting, deficient rebounding, untimely turnovers, and silly fouls have certainly slowed this talented group at times. Overtime provided a perfect example of a lack of concentration. With 4:22 left on the clock Budinger hits a three, there's no one back to take the inbounds pass forcing Mario Chalmers to call a timeout. Then out of the timeout on the offensive end, Arthur turns a sure dunk into a fumble and turnover out of bounds.
Like last year, you wondered what would happen on a night when KU failed to shoot it well from three. The Jayhawks were abysmal from long range going 2-10 from three on Sunday. Self and his team answered with a tight win but the opposition will surely get tougher than Arizona.
There's no reason to press the panic button in Lawrence but there are plenty of things the Jayhawks have to work on to tighten the ship.
And the best news of all, even if they would've lost, unlike the football team, KU's national championship dreams would be alive and well.
At the end of the night Big 12 – 1, Pac-10 – 0.