(4) S Illinois 58

(29-7, 15-3 MVC)

(1) Kansas 61

(33-4, 14-2 Big 12)

    7:10 PM ET, March 22, 2007

    1 2 T
    #4SIU 24 3458
    #1KU 27 3461

    Top Performers

    Southern Illinois: J. Tatum 19 Pts, 3 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl

    Kansas: B. Rush 12 Pts, 5 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Blk

    Kansas dodges loss, ekes out victory over Southern Illinois

    Associated Press

    SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Kansas Jayhawks knew they had to abandon the beautiful game they usually play to beat Southern Illinois. The Jayhawks admit they don't like winning ugly -- but they like losing even less.

    When the Salukis slowed their NCAA Tournament run to a crawl, Brandon Rush and his Kansas teammates stooped down into the grit for a win that put them on the brink of the Final Four.

    Elias Says

    Brandon Rush scored 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting in Kansas' 61-58 victory over Southern Illinois. Rush was the first player to make as many as six field goals without a miss in the Round of 16 since Kevin Lyde did so for Temple in a win over Purdue in 1999.

    The Jayhawks made only one of six three-point attempts in their victory, becoming the first team in four years to win a tournament game with fewer than two three-point field goals. Kansas was also the last team to do so, shooting 1-for-12 from three-point range in a 69-65 win over Duke in 2003, when Kentucky shot 1-for-5 in a victory over Wisconsin on the same day.

    Note that Southern Illinois' first two opponents made a total of three three-pointers on 24 attempts. The only other school to hold their three opponents to fewer than five treys through the Round of 16 was Notre Dame in 1987 (the first year of the three-point rule).

    •  Elias Says

    Rush scored 12 points without missing a shot, and Kansas eked out a 61-58 victory over Southern Illinois in the West Regional semifinals Thursday night. Kansas advanced to face UCLA, a 64-55 winner over Pittsburgh, on Saturday.

    Darrell Arthur and Russell Robinson scored nine points apiece to help the Jayhawks (33-4) barely avoid yet another Saluki surprise and another disappointing exit from the tournament.

    Kansas went into the locker room bickering and muttering at Southern Illinois' tenacity, yet still won its 14th straight game by nursing a small lead through the final minutes against a defense that made the Jayhawks' future NBA stars work exceptionally hard for every basket.

    "It shows that we can win whatever the circumstances are," said Kansas guard Mario Chalmers, who scored just nine points. "Everyone knows we like an uptempo game in the 80s, but we can take our time and slow it down with the best of them, too."

    When Tony Young missed a desperate 3-point attempt from half-court at the buzzer, Kansas dodged its second straight tournament loss at the hands of the Missouri Valley Conference, which takes the "mid" out of mid-major with each passing year. Bradley beat the Jayhawks last season.

    Southern Illinois decisively won the matchup's clash of styles, forcing a deliberate tempo on the high-flying Jayhawks while keeping the possessions long and the score low. The Salukis' defensive aggression and offensive rebounding were complemented by just enough big shots from its struggling scorers to keep it close.

    But Kansas adjusted with a maturity that wasn't present in coach Bill Self's last two teams. Nine players got a field goal for the Jayhawks, who patiently waited for holes in the Salukis' defense -- and then threw themselves into defending the other end.

    It was elemental basketball, and Kansas put all the elements together.

    "Whoever plays Southern isn't going to look good offensively," Self said. "It just isn't going to happen. ... I was disappointed how some guys handled the heat, but when the game was on the line, we handled it pretty well."

    Jamaal Tatum scored 19 points in his final college game for the fourth-seeded Salukis (29-7), who couldn't get the break they needed to reach the round of eight for the first time in school history with just their second loss in 17 games.

    Julian Wright's free throw with 1:23 left put Kansas up 58-53, but Tatum hit a 3-pointer moments later. Chalmers hit a free throw, and Tatum added another jumper to cut the Jayhawks' lead to 59-58.

    But Rush confidently drove the lane with 25 seconds left and flicked home a basket with the poise that might someday make him the best of his three basketball-playing brothers.

    "Somebody had to step up down the stretch and make a good play, and I'm glad I did," Rush said.

    Rush's layup provided the game's final points, but Tatum missed a chance to tie it on a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left.

    "The shot I took is a shot I've practiced numerous times in the gym at night (and) in between classes," Tatum said. "It felt good. I don't know what to say."

    Randal Falker got the rebound for Southern Illinois, but lost the ball. Wright then missed two potential clinching free throws, but Young couldn't hit his fifth 3-pointer of the night on the run, sending Kansas into a subdued, relieved celebration.

    Young scored 14 points on a poor shooting night, and Falker added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Salukis.

    Tatum, the MVC's player of the year, shook off a 1-for-8 first half with an outstanding second half. He particularly embarrassed Chalmers, hounding the Jayhawks' high-profile guard and stripping the ball from him at least twice.

    Kansas entered last weekend's opening rounds in Chicago as a popular pick to win it all after its roster packed with NBA prospects lost just twice since Dec. 2. The Jayhawks lived up to that billing in a fluid second-round win over Kentucky -- but Southern Illinois presented a defensive challenge that few teams had been able to overcome this season.

    The Salukis earned their sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and the highest seeding in school history after winning the MVC's regular-season title. Their second-round NCAA victory over Virginia Tech was their 29th, setting another school record.

    "We do what we do to everybody, no matter what's on the front of their jersey," Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery said. "I'm disappointed in the final result, but I'm very proud of our guys."

    Matt Shaw scored nine points for Southern Illinois on a sprained ankle -- but he also missed an open shot in the final minutes.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 58 61
    FG Made-Attempted 21-57 (.368) 25-42 (.595)
    3P Made-Attempted 6-25 (.240) 1-6 (.167)
    FT Made-Attempted 10-14 (.714) 10-19 (.526)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 16 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 6 8


    » Mar 22, 2007 @KU 61, SIU 58Recap