Brandon Rush was coming off an especially poor performance the previous
game against Nebraska on Friday night, when he committed four turnovers
and shot just three of 10 from the field for nine points.
“I played terrible yesterday, and I wanted to come back and
play a good game and show everybody,” Rush said after scoring
a career-high 28 points in leading KU to a thrilling 77-71 victory over
the Aggies and a berth in Sunday’s Big 12 Championship game
Rush didn’t just play a good game on Saturday, he played the
game of his life. Rush shot nine of 13 from the field (five of eight
from three-point range), while scoring 18 points in the second half. He
also committed just one turnover.
“I haven’t played any better,” he said as
over 20 reporters and broadcasters swarmed him by his locker after the
game. “It was a career-high game, so it can’t get
any better than that. We got the win. My teammates were looking for me.
I had a lot of open looks and made some big-time threes at the
KU coach Bill Self said Rush put on a show.
“Brandon was as good as I’ve seen him the last
three years,” Self said. “The thing that
I’m most proud about...is he didn’t play at all
yesterday. And for him to come back from that I think is a good sign.
He needs to have some breakout games when it counts the most. And
certainly this was one of those type of games.”
This was a completely different Rush than the one who showed up against
Nebraska on Friday night, or the one who showed up versus Texas
A&M in College Station a week ago on March 8, when he shot just
two of nine from the field (10 points) and committed three turnovers.
Fortunately, KU beat the Aggies that day, 72-55, and won a share of the
Big 12 Championship.
But make no mistake, KU (30-3) wouldn’t be in the Big 12
Tournament Championship today if not for Rush. The ‘Hawks
needed every one of his 28 points on a day when this always balanced
team had just one other player in double figures (senior forward
Darnell Jackson with 14 points).
With sophomore guard Sherron Collins struggling with his shot (3-8 FG),
senior guard Russell Robinson not an offensive force (2-4 FG), and
junior guard Mario Chalmers hampered with a knee bruise (2-5 FG), Rush
took it upon himself to take control of the game.
He attacked the basket, he hit floaters, he hit threes, he hit pull-up
jumpers. He basically did it all. With KU down 39-37 with 17:32
remaining in the game, Rush attacked the lane and got fouled on a
jumper for a three-point play. That put KU up 40-39, a lead KU would
never relinquish. While the Aggies kept pushing hard the second half,
Rush hit big shot after big shot, knocking down four straight buckets,
including two threes, within an eight-plus minute stretch (16:12 to
“I was demanding the ball every time,” Rush said.
“At the time I was on fire, I probably hit my last four or
five shots, and then it went on from there.”
After the Aggies cut KU’s lead to two (65-63 with 5:21
remaining), Rush finally missed a shot, yet rebounded the ball, got
fouled, and made two free throws. He then followed those charities up
the next time down the court with a three-ball, giving KU a 70-63 lead.
And it was only fitting that Rush scored KU’s last two points
of the game (two free throws) with six seconds left. His 28 points were
the most he scored since his 24-point outing against K-State on March
This was definitely a night to remember for the Kansas City native, who
said it was extra special playing at the Sprint Center about
five minutes from where he grew up. However, he added that given a
choice, he would have preferred to score his career high in Allen
Fieldhouse because “I haven’t played really well
(there) the whole year.”
Rush said a defining moment in the game was at the 11:27 mark in the
first half when he raced down the left baseline, took a crisp pass from
Collins, and threw down a one-handed thunder dunk. That gave KU a 17-16
“Everybody started getting on their feet,” Rush
said. “I definitely felt the love from the crowd.”
Self ran some specific plays for Rush in the second half to get him
shots. And his teammates kept telling him to shoot the ball
“every time I touched it.”
“My whole key was to stay aggressive and take the open
shots,” Rush said. “Everything was
falling for me, so I kept shooting.”
Senior teammate Sasha Kaun hopes Rush continues to stay aggressive and
shoot the ball.
“He had a phenomenal game,” Kaun said.
“I’m really happy for him. It’s kind of a
good time for him to do it and boost his confidence up in time for the
NCAA tournament. Hopefully, he’ll keep it up and bring it for
us every night. That will help us in the long run.”
Kaun said Rush is human, though, and can’t have big games all
“It’s basketball,” Kaun said.
“LeBron (James) can’t get 50 points every night.
Same with Brandon. Sometimes things just don’t go right and
the shots don’t fall.”
As Rush echoed: “Sometimes, it doesn’t go in all
the time. Sometimes it falls all the time.”
Then he smiled.
“It was definitely my night,” Rush said.
“I’m definitely going to look to shoot some more