Southern Illinios coach
It wasn't exactly the Jayhawks' finest performance. They committed 18 turnovers and missed nine of their 19 free throws, which nearly left the door open wide enough for Southern Illinois to slip through. But in the end, Kansas was simply too talented, too athetic, too long-limbed for the Salukis to overcome. At one point Southern Illinois forward
Rush's game is a thing of beauty. The Kansas forward seems to glide through the air, taking off from the foul line and finishing with short finger rolls. When Rush is on, he looks like an NBA player who wandered into a college game. His only flaw is that like many players to whom the game seems to come easily, he sometimes disappears. That happened for brief stretches against Southern Illinois, which helped the Salukis stay in the game, but when his team really needed him, Rush was there, with crucial buckets near the end, including the floater with Kansas up 59-58 that provided the final margin of victory. The way Rush took it to the basket and rose up over his defender for the shot, he looked absoutely unstoppable. The Jayhawks only wish he would look that way more consistently.
Southern Illinois tends to make teams play ugly, and that's what they did to the Jayhawks. In some ways, the game was good preparation for Kansas' next game, because both of their potential opponents, UCLA and Pitt, play the kind of grinding, physical defense that the Salukis did. The rap on Kansas has always been that they're not tough enough to survive those kinds of games. The Jayhawks proved that they can survive one, at least, but it's doubtful that they'll be able to do it again, against a more talented team than the one they faced on Thursday. Look for Kansas' season to end on Saturday.