Hawks Blast Huskers, Turn Attention to KState

Saturday afternoon in Lawrence two distinct teams took the court. One team had the look of a confident team who knew that they were about to run somebody out of the gym while the other had the look of a team that knew they were in big trouble.

Any questions about which role would be played by second ranked Kansas Jayhawks and which role would be played by the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers as the Jayhawks blew the game wide open early and cruised to an 84-49 win and a 20-0 record on the season.

Riding the outside shooting of junior wing Brandon Rush and the inside play of sophomore forward Darrell Arthur who each scored 14 first half points on the offensive end of the floor, the Jayhawks were just as impressive on the defensive end. After holding the Huskers to just 20.7% shooting (6-29 FG), Kansas had amassed an insurmountable 44-15 advantage by the time the horn ended the first half.

After going 5-7 from three point land and scoring 19 points during KU’s win in Lincoln just a few weeks ago, Rush again hit for 5-7 threes while finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. While Bill Self was happy with Rush’s shooting and the Jayhawks hot start, he was even more impressed with their defensive intensity.

“Brandon does usually shoot it pretty well against them,” said Self post game. “ We didn't get off to unbelievable start offensively, but we did defensively. We really defended (Aleks) Maric on the post and did a good job on everybody but (Steve) Harley.  I thought we played well.”

With the game over before the second half had even started, Self was a little disappointed by some of the Jayhawks sloppiness and silly turnovers to start the second half.

“Second half -- very sloppy,” said Self. “A lot of substitutions and different lineups, but I though we were very sloppy in the second half, and I didn't expect that.  Other than the turnovers, I thought in the second half, we played well on both ends."

In addition to Rush’s 17 and eight, Arthur finished his afternoon with 17 points and seven boards. Also chipping in were senior forward Darnell Jackson who continued his fine season with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Sherron Collins added 10 points and Mario Chalmers chipped in with seven assists to offset his cold (1-6 FG) day from the field.

Considering the ultimate outcome wasn’t in doubt, Self challenged his team to come out intense during the second half.

“Coached challenged us in the locker room and told us to come out and play,” said Collins of the Jayhawks second half goals. “When a team is down like that they are going to challenge harder than they are in the first half.  So we needed to come out and match their intensity."

While there were also questions about how the Jayhawks held Nebraska’s star Aleks Maric scoreless and other things, what everybody – at least the media – really had on their minds was Wednesday night’s visit to Manhattan and the Jayhawks game with Kansas State who is also unbeaten in conference play.

More specifically, everybody was wondering what the Jayhawks thought of K-State freshman star Michael Beasley’s victory guarantee. Those looking for a juicy quote or bulletin board material coming from the Kansas side were left disappointed for the most part.

“It’s a little funny to me,” said Collins before pausing to catch himself. “You know he’s just basically putting a little more on it that’s going to make us come out and get after them. It’s going to be a tough game and he’s a tough player but to go out and say something like that. We’re just going to take it all in and we aren’t even going to respond back to it, we’re just going to let our game talk for us.”

With a wild crowd expected, and the hype of Kansas being so highly ranked and undefeated on the season, and KU’s winning streak in Manhattan on the line again, Arthur said that it will be important to focus on the task at hand and take the game as it comes.

“You know, we’re not even trying to think about that streak,” said Arhur of the trip to Manhattan. “We’re just worried about getting wins like I said, we’re not going to be thinking about anything else.”

Having played with Beasley during the summer of 2007, Arthur said that he wasn’t surprised to see the six-foot-nine inch freshman off to such a great start.

“I knew that he was going to come in and play well, extremely well,” said Arthur of Beasley. “He just goes after everything. He goes after every rebound, he goes after points and he does everything he can to help out the team. I’ll guard him some and we’re going to throw some guys at him and hopefully get the ball out of his hands and make other people score.”

Finally, Jackson weighed in on the matter. The senior admitted that he was a little surprised that so much attention was being focused on one individuals comments and that at the end of the day the anticipated matchup is going to be a battle of teams, not of Michael Beasley versus Kansas.

“Yeah, I’ve heard about it but it doesn’t really matter,” said Jackson. “We’re going to play as a team and one guy can’t beat a team. Actions speak louder than words and hey, when it’s time for us to play we’re going to go out there and play.

“I think it’s going to be crazy, loud and the fans are going to be saying crazy stuff. That should jack the team up a lot and when we get down there everybody is going to be ready to play.”

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