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Rush, Wright lead Kansas to regional semis

Mar 19, 2007 - 1:33 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Brandon Rush proved to be too deadly from long distance for Kentucky to handle.

Rush made six 3-pointers and Julian Wright scored 21 points to lead top-seeded Kansas to an 88-76 victory over No. 8 Kentucky in a West Region second-round game of the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas (32-4) extended its winning streak to 13 games by defeating Kentucky for just the sixth time in 25 encounters. The victory moved the Jayhawks into Friday's matchup against fourth-seeded Southern Illinois at San Jose, California.

"We are obviously pretty excited about the win," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I thought we played well here in Chicago. We are real anxious and excited to move on. Now we just have to tighten up a few things so we can play well next weekend, also."

Rush and Mario Chalmers hit two 3-pointers apiece in the first six minutes and Wright scored six points in a close first half that saw the Jayhawks take a 36-30 lead at the break.

"We started pressing them a bit and forcing bad shots," Rush said. "Then we were able to get out on transition for easier baskets."

Kentucky pulled within 41-38 as Bobby Perry hit consecutive 3-pointers and Randolph Morris made two free throws in an 8-2 run. However, Kansas scored the next eight points, highlighted by two baskets by Wright and a 3-pointer by Rush.

"In the beginning, they were taking charges and closing in when we drove so, coach said, 'Knock down some shots,'" Wright said. "The space on the floor got better for us to be more aggressive. Then they had to extend their pressure and that opened things up inside."

After Sheray Thomas hit a layup for the Wildcats, Wright followed with a layup and Rush buried his fifth basket from the arc for a 54-40 lead with 14:47 left.

Kentucky (22-12) tried to shake things up by using full-court pressure midway through the second half. But Kansas easily overcame the press with layups by Darnell Jackson and Russell Robinson to take a 62-47 advantage with 9:02 remaining.

"You can't play mistake-free against them but you have to play almost a flawless game at both ends," Wildcats coach Tubby Smith said. "I thought we played well at times. Then we had some droughts offensively and defensively at the same time. If you do that, you will have problems."

Wright made 8-of-12 shots and Chalmers scored 16 points for Kansas, which shot nearly 57 percent (30-of-53) from the floor, including 10-of-16 from the arc.

Using a lineup that does not have include a senior, the Jayhawks won their 75th tournament game - the NCAA's fifth-highest total - in a matchup that featured two of the three winningest teams in Division I history.

Morris hit 14-of-16 free throws to score 22 points and Perry had 21 for the Wildcats, who finished the season by losing three of their last five games.

"They played me pretty aggressive and I tried to get them into foul trouble and was pretty successful at that," said Morris, who made 4-of-8 shots from the floor. "We just couldn't stop the open shot and that killed us today."

"It's tough to go out like this," Perry said. "This is a team game and we win and lose as a team. As an individual, you go play as hard as you can. The ultimate goal is to win the game and try to help the team as much as I could, but we fell a little short today."

A seven-time tournament champion, Kentucky failed to reach the regional semis for just the fourth time in the last 13 years.

    --- --- -----
    KENTUCKY 30 46 76
    KANSAS 36 52 88 FINAL

    Mar 18 7:31 PM


    Mar 18 6:05 PM