KU Hammers FAU, Looks Ahead to USC

There wasn't much mystery involved in the Wednesday night game between Kansas and Florida Atlantic. Headed by former Jayhawk star and NBA veteran Rex Walters, the FAU Owls entered Allen Fieldhouse even more outmanned than expected thanks to the dismissal of their best player, junior guard Paul Graham.

With that in mind, the marching orders for Bill Self's Jayhawks were pretty simple, handle the Owls, make sure nobody gets hurt and try to do a little better job of getting the ball into the post. Led by junior wing Brandon Rush's 17 points, the Jayhawks were successful, for the most part after a sluggish start, in a workmanlike 87-49 drubbing.

"I thought we played pretty well. They (Florida Atlantic) are not the team that they will probably be later on in the season," said Self after the win. "In the first half, even though I though we played okay, we did not make shots and therefore they hung around."

Inserted into the starting lineup in place of senior center Sasha Kaun, senior Darnell Jackson made his first start of the season and responded by scoring 13 points and grabbing four rebounds in 22 minutes of action. After the game, Jackson downplayed the importance of making his first start.

"I was very comfortable starting the game, I had a lot of fun with Coach Self letting me start today," said Jackson. "I just tried to go out there and provide the same momentum and energy that I do coming off the bench.

"I wasn't practicing any better, we are just going to try something new. He (Self) is just going to rotate the big guys and see which guys start off the bench better and which guys start better. Sasha, he'll be back in the starting lineup pretty soon and we just have to stay focused and play."

Also making a solid contribution was senior guard Jeremy Case. Relegated to mop up minutes for most of his career, Case capitalized on extra minutes made available by injuries to Sherron Collins and Tyrel Reed by making all three of his shots to score seven points while dishing out six assists in 15 minutes of action.

"It feels really good," said Case. "I'd kind of forgotten what it was like to play that many minutes. I think it helps a lot. The more you play the more you can get a feel for the game and get your rhythm and timing down for everything because practice is a different speed."

After critical words from Self following the Jayhawks overtime win Sunday night against Arizona, junior guard Mario Chalmers felt that he and his teammates were showing signs of improvement. According to Chalmers defense and feeding the post have been stressed during practice and he felt he and his teammates had improved in those areas.

"He (Self) was a little happier tonight because our defense was a little better tonight," said Chalmers who scored 11 points and dished out a pair of assists. "Most of the things we've been working on in practice we were able to do tonight so I think he was pretty pleased.

"I think we did an ok job tonight (of playing through the post). It was kind of hard because Florida Atlantic was small so they sagged and really tried to pack it in but I think we did an ok job of that."

Not surprisingly, Self had a little different view of the job his perimeter players did in feeding the post.

"Our big guys to me during the first half were wide open and we didn't throw the ball to them," said Self. "That's what we've been emphasizing, our guards have got to trust their ability to get them the ball. We'll get better at that, but we've got to play through our big guys more on the low post. We're still not doing that, we missed them countless times during the first half."

While pleased with the easy win, Self was also proud of the reception given to Walters by the Kansas faithful.

"I thought it was great," said Self of Walters' ovation. "It wasn't the most exciting game and I thought that the ovation Rex got tonight was the best ovation of the night and he deserves it. Everybody respects how hard he played, I know I did and I was an outsider, and respects how he conducts himself."

Now standing 6-0 on the season, Self and the Jayhawks move on to face Southern Cal on Sunday in Los Angeles. Although he hasn't spent much time breaking down game film yet, Self knows that his team is facing a talented squad led by freshman sensation O.J. Mayo.

"O.J. is terrific, he could be the best player that we'll play against all year. He could be, he's that good," said Self. "Taj Gibson is a terrific post player and Davon Jefferson who is also a freshman is terrific. What they're really doing is they're really guarding.

"The one thing that I would say without seeing the game, you beat Southern Illinois by 25 on a neutral court that's like winning by 40 or 45 against anybody else because of the way they play. Of course we all know with Southern Illinois that we were lucky to win on the last possession or last two possessions last year so they've certainly got it going pretty good."

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