What was surprising was the earlier-than-expected return of Brandon Rush to the KU line-up. The Kansas City junior came off the bench with four minutes gone in the game to a standing ovation and scored seven points, grabbed three rebounds and dished two assists in just 12 minutes of work – all in the first half. Rush sparked a lethargic Kansas offense to a 34-18 halftime lead over the Ichabods.
“I thought he was probably as good a performer as we had tonight,” KU coach Bill Self said. “Brandon was a big bright spot for us.”
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “When I started getting up and down the court, I felt like my old self. I didn’t hold back at all.”
He lacked explosiveness but looked surprisingly good, moving well laterally and making strong moves in traffic. Rather than nervous, he seemed relieved to be back on the court, even though he was fouled and went down hard making a strong move to the basket with 7:25 left in the first half.
“He got knocked down, which needed to happen. He went to the goal hard one time in traffic, which needed to happen. I thought he did some good things; I was really happy for him,” Self said.
“I would’ve liked to play a lot more, but due to the trainers and doctors, I was only going to play like 12 minutes and I used all that up in the first half.”
Self said trainers told him Rush could play 10 minutes, so he decided to go ahead and use those minutes almost as if he was working Rush into the normal rotation.
“I thought, why play him five in the first half and then sit him all that time and only play him five in the second half. Get him out there, get him loose. Since he’s only going to play that much, why make him sit for 20 minutes and come in and only play a couple minutes the second half.”
The recent injury to guard Sherron Collins and the limitations on Rush’s playing time meant reserve Roderick Stewart got the start in the backcourt alongside Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson. Stewart did his usual solid job and finished with nine points (including a monster tomahawk dunk in the second half), four assists against just one turnover and four rebounds in 19 minutes.
Sophomore Darrell Arthur started slow but warmed up as the game went on, scoring 14 points and getting five rebounds. Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson each collected 10 points and seven boards. Kaun’s playing time was drastically limited due to two fouls in the first two minutes of the game. All his points and all but two rebounds were picked up in the second half.
On a night when it could have been all about the loss of Sherron Collins, all the talk was about Rush’s return.
Roderick Stewart said, “As crazy as it sounds, (Rush) was the spark off the bench. He helped us get some momentum. The game was real close until he came in. We ran the score up a little bit because he was being aggressive and doing what he does: making shots and getting rebounds.”
Despite being pleased with Rush’s 2007 debut, Self said his junior guard understandably had work to do.
“You can tell he’s not quite what he was. He’ll get there, but a lot of it is timing and confidence. I thought he did some good things.”
Self was hesitant to speculate on how many minutes Rush will get in KU’s upcoming games against Northern Arizona and perennial power Arizona.
“We’ve still got a week to practice before we play, so (Rush) may be a 20, 25 minute guy. I don’t know. That’ll be up to the doctors and trainers.” Self also added that there was no timetable for Rush’s return to the starting line-up.
KU’s next game will be next Wednesday, November 21, when the ‘Hawks entertain the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks. No word yet on why anyone in their right mind would ever leave Flagstaff, AZ., even for a few days. Keep tuned to the Phog for further updates.