for this game

Rush, Kansas survive upset bid from Southern Illinois

Mar 23, 2007 - 5:04 AM SAN JOSE, California (Ticker) -- It was a couple of near-misses on offense that saved Kansas from another disaster against a Missouri Valley Conference team.

Brandon Rush scored 12 points, including a big layup with 24 seconds left, as top-seeded Kansas held off a major upset bid by No. 4 Southern Illinois with a 61-58 victory in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament's West Region.

Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and freshman Darrell Arthur added nine points apiece for the Jayhawks (33-4), who advance to face UCLA on Saturday for the right to go to the Final Four.

The Big 12 Conference regular-season and tournament champion, the Jayhawks won their 14th consecutive game, tying for the longest winning streak under coach Bill Self.

Despite winning its opening two games of the tournament by an average of 26 points, Kansas was unable to control the tempo due to the defensive tenacity of Southern Illinois, which was looking to advance to the regional final for the first time in school history.

"I didn't expect them to be like this, they really hounded us and forced us to make a bunch of mistakes," said Rush, who committed four of the Jayhawks' 19 turnovers.

The Salukis' hard-nosed defense limited Kansas to its lowest point total in the past 29 games despite shooting 62 percent (25-of-42).

"I thought it would be the first one to 60 would win the game," Self said. "We had to shoot 62 percent to score 61. That does not happen very often. We did some good things offensively and we did some really poor things offensively."

"We ball-controlled them like we knew we could," Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery said. "Nobody in the country thought we could keep them out of transition, but we knew we could."

The struggles of the Jayhawks bought back memories of their surprising first-round flameouts in this event the previous two seasons, including a loss to MVC squad Bradley last year.

Jamaal Tatum scored 19 points for the Salukis (29-7), who had their chances to bounce the first top seed from the tournament.

Trailing, 54-53, with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining, Bryan Mullins collected a steal on the defensive end but missed a layup in transition. Tatum also had his follow shot hit off the front of the rim before Kansas grabbed the loose ball in transition, leading to 1-of-2 free throws by Chalmers with 2:20 left.

"We had them in the right frame of mind where if we make a layup here or don't turn it over there, the game may have had a different outcome," Lowery said.

Despite the setback, Southern Illinois found itself trailing just 61-58 after Rush made his layup in the lane.

The layup was part of a 6-of-6 shooting effort for Rush, who also had five rebounds and five assists.

"I knew somebody had to step up so I got in my mind that I was going to be the one," Rush said about his final basket. "I just took it to the basket and pulled up on a little 6-foot guard (Tatum) which is to my advantage."

Tatum was then off the mark on a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, but Randal Falker grabbed the offensive rebound before having the ball slip out of his hands attempting to pull back a pass.

"The last shot I took, it's a shot I've practiced numerous times in the gym late at night and in the morning, between classes," Tatum said. "It felt good, the release felt good. I didn't make it and that is part of basketball."

The Jayhawks grabbed the loose ball and after Julian Wright missed two free throws with two seconds left, Tony Young's halfcourt heave for the Salukis at the buzzer was off the mark.

Despite the low point total, Kansas started strong, jumping out to a 10-2 lead inside the opening five minutes.

However, Southern Illinois fought back behind its defense, forcing the Jayhawks to 10 turnovers in the opening half.

Trailing, 27-24, at the intermission, the Salukis opened the second half with a 9-0 run, pulling ahead 33-27 on a 3-pointer by Young with 16:10 remaining. Young had five points in the burst and Tatum added four.

Tatum, the MVC Player of the Year, finished with 17 points after the break.

"At halftime I knew that Tatum was missing a lot of shots and I just knew he was going to come out in the second half and breakaway and start making shots, and he did," Kansas forward Darnell Jackson said. "We knew we had to change things up so we started switching to try and get him out of his groove."

Even with the stellar play of Tatum, Kansas answered back with a 7-0 run, taking a 34-33 edge with 14:19 to play.

The contest remained close until the Jayhawks threw together a 10-4 spurt to pull ahead, 58-53, with 1:23 left. Tatum then hit his only 3-pointer on eight attempts to make it a two-point game with 1:12 left.

Young scored 14 points and Falker added 11 and nine boards for Southern Illinois, which overcame 37 percent (21-of-57) shooting by scoring 26 points on turnovers.

Missing the Salukis' win over Virginia Tech in the second round with a sprained ankle, Matt Shaw played 36 minutes, finishing with nine points and six rebounds.

"It hurts right now," he said. "Next week will think about what we did and accomplished this year and we are definitely proud of the season we had."