Rush's regression tops Self concerns
LAWRENCE - It's one thing for Sherron Collins to revert to a freshman moment. After all, the Kansas guard is a freshman.
But it's quite another thing for sophomore Brandon Rush to have a timid moment. Particularly at this time of year.
Brandon Rush all but disappeared Monday night when the No. 3 Jayhawks needed him the most. They survived to defeat Oklahoma 67-65 in Norman, but no thanks to their leading scorer.
He scored nine points off 2-of-7 shooting while committing four turnovers to one assist.
"We can't have that," KU coach Bill Self said. "Let's call it like it is: Brandon Rush has to step up. He's better than that offensively. He has to do more offensively for us to look good. He shied away from plays (Monday night)."
Crunch time is no time to turn shy. And certainly with the Jayhawks (26-4, 13-2 Big 12) trying to move their NCAA Tournament fortunes from a No. 2 seed variety to a No. 1.
Monday was the second game in 48 hours that Brandon Rush failed to score in double figures and wasn't looking for his shot.
But the OU game was a whole lot different than Saturday's blowout victory over Iowa State, when he attempted four shots and scored six points. That game was out of hand early and Brandon Rush could justify passing up shots so other teammates could score.
Monday was a different matter.
Brandon Rush wasn't there when the Jayhawks built a 17-point lead in the first half, and he wasn't there when they blew that lead and needed him most.
"I'm just worried about making a mistake," Brandon Rush said. "I don't know why. I've had in the back of my mind, 'Don't make a mistake.'
"I couldn't get myself into the game, I guess. I was getting frustrated with myself, missing shots, airballing. I need to have a free mind when I'm out there, not worry and just move on to the next play."
Self and his teammates have been telling him the same things.
"It's our job as guard to get Brandon easy shots, get him going, get him in rhythm," point guard Russell Robinson said.
Not that KU as a whole played loose and free against the Sooners, who lost their fifth straight on a night the Jayhawks won their seventh in a row.
"I think the whole group showed frustration," Self said. "The body language wasn't good. We were timid. We didn't even attempt a three-pointer in the second half."
Perhaps that was because the Jayhawks scared themselves off after making only 1 of 7 from beyond the arc in the first half. Ironically, Brandon Rush made KU's only three-pointer.
Collins had been KU's steadiest hand, scoring in double figures in 12 of the previous 14 games. Monday, he was scoreless and missed all five shots. But he rejected the notion that the pressure from either the OU defense in the second half or the time of the season impacted his game.
"Tonight just wasn't my night," he said. "It wasn't there."
But Collins noted that at least the Jayhawks finished the game right.
"We're tough," he said. "We bring something to the table when we can play bad and still win."
But in March, the Jayhawks' table will have to include a consistent Brandon Rush for them to go deep into the tournament. He'll have much of this week to think it over before KU closes its regular season at home Saturday against Texas in a game that could decide at least a share of the Big 12 title.
"I just need to do a better job out there," Brandon Rush said.
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