KU Executes Down the Stretch in 77-71 Win

Kansas will play for the Big 12 Tournament title after an exciting 77-71 semi-final win over a Texas A&M team that just wouldn't go away.

Brandon Rush scored a career high 28 points. Darnell Jackson added 14 more. Darrell Arthur pulled down seven boards to lead Kansas.

Every time Kansas started to open things up, A&M would counter.

“I thought it was a fabulous college basketball game, KU coach Bill Self said. “There was some high-level stuff going on out there, especially the last 10 minutes.”

“(Texas A&M) didn't fold,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Turg (Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon) did a great job of getting his guys ready to play,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “The way we handled them in College Station was probably great motivation for them.”

KU got off to a very quick 3-0 lead, but the Aggies came right back with a 9-2 run to take a 9-5 lead into the first media timeout.

Need another example? KU was up eight, 34-26, with 3:07 left in the first half. Texas A&M rattled off eight straight to go into the locker room knotted at 34.

Self said that the Aggies found ways to stay in the game.

“If you take away the last three minutes of the first half, we controlled the game, but they just wouldn't go away.”

Turgeon said that the last few weeks of the season brought a new sense of urgency to his team and they responded well. That urgency was amplified this weekend.

“Our backs were against the wall coming (to Kansas City). We knew we needed a win, and we got two. We pushed a possible #1-seed to the limit in front of their hometown fans. There was no quit in us. We might've folded our tents earlier in the year, down seven or eight in front of their fans, but we kept fighting through it.”

KU looked like they were off to a good second-half start when Darrell Arthur made a stick-back off a missed jumper by Russell Robinson. At A&M's end of the floor, though, Mario Chalmers fouled Beau Muhlbach on a three-point attempt with four seconds left on the shot clock. Muhlbach hit all three to give A&M a lead, 37-36.

KU bounced back with a 9-3 run that included a traditional three-point play drive by Rush; a Darnell Jackson stickback; a Rush jumper from the free throw line; and a Sherron Collins steal and lay-up.

KU had quickly extended their lead to 46-39 with 15:47 lead, and A&M coach Mark Turgeon was forced to call a time out to regroup.

Regroup, they did. A&M scored on their next three possessions to narrow the KU lead, 49-46, but a Sherron Collins lay-up after a deflected Aggie pass by Cole Aldrich made it 51-46.

Sherron Collins took a hard foul on the way to the basket and made both shots, again staking Kansas to a six-point lead.

Then, in the hustle play of the game, KU and A&M exchanged turnovers on the same sequence before Darnell Jackson did his best James McClinton impersonation, falling on the loose ball and calling timeout at midcourt with 9:45 left and KU protecting a 55-49 lead.

A running one-hander by Rush out of the timeout made it 57-49, and momentum seemed to be KU's sixth man.

The two teams exchanged three-balls on four straight possessions to make it 63-55 with under seven minutes to play.

Aggie Brian Davis scored underneath, drawing Darrell Arthur's third foul with 6:38 left, and converted the free throw to get the KU lead down to five.  A turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass gave A&M and opportunity to cut into the lead even further. Beau Muhlbach drove the lane and drew a foul on Russell Robinson. He converted both charities, and Kansas led by three, 63-60.

A Collins-to-Jackson alley oop got the lead back to five, but a three by Muhlbach drew a timeout from Self.

Brandon Rush missed a three out of the timeout but got his own rebound and was fouled going back up. He converted both free throws .

On KU's next possession, Rush knocked down an open three-point shot, and suddenly the lead was back to seven, 70-63.

KU led, 73-66, with 1:20 left when A&M ran a set play for Beau Muhlbach who buried another three to make it 73-69. Muhlbach immediately fouled Mario Chalmers, who missed the first of a one-and-one. At the A&M end, Darnell Jackson fouled Dominique Kirk in the act of shooting, and Kirk made both free throws. Suddenly, KU's lead was two with 54.9 seconds left.

Out of the timeout, Kansas ran a set play that resulted in Russell Robinson seeing a lane to the basket you could've driven a truck through. He took off from the top of the circle and made a layup virtually undefended with 29 seconds left.. The score was 74-71, and this time, A&M didn't have an answer. Brandon Rush added his 27th and 28th points of the night from the free throw line to set the final margin of victory.

Despite a modicum of panic through the Jayhawk Nation, Self says that the last two close games have been, and will be, good for his Jayhawks.

“We needed this game. We needed yesterday's game. These are great games to play...as long as you win. They stink if you don't. We needed to execute down the stretch. We needed to come from behind like we did yesterday. It was good for us to have to keep playing because we executed pretty well down the stretch.”

KU will need that same kind of execution Sunday when they get a rematch against Texas, a team that beat them by three earlier in the season. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN.

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