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January 26, 2008
LAWRENCE, Kan. — There's something about Nebraska that sharpens Brandon Rush's 3-point touch.
With Rush going 5-for-7 from behind the arc and scoring 17 points, No. 2 Kansas rolled up a big early lead and cruised past the Cornhuskers 84-49 on Saturday.
The win allowed the Jayhawks (20-0, 5-0 Big 12) to keep pace with No. 1 Memphis (19-0) as the country's only unbeaten Division I teams.
Two weeks ago at Nebraska, Rush was also 5-for-7 from long range in a 79-58 victory for the Jayhawks, who are two wins from matching the best start in their storied basketball history.
"I don't know why they leave me open like that," said Rush, a 6-foot-6 junior guard who also had eight rebounds. "They did it (at Nebraska). They always leave me open."
Darrell Arthur scored 18 points for Kansas and helped hold Aleks Maric, Nebraska's 6-11 senior, without a point. Maric, who had been averaging almost 17 points as Nebraska's leading scorer, had not been shut out since his sophomore year.
"I probably could have been more aggressive or tried different stuff," Maric said. "Obviously I let the team down today, and being a senior, it's a big thing and I take full responsibility for that. I should have led this team, but give Kansas credit for shutting me down."
Kansas led 44-15 at halftime and seemed headed for a blowout similar to last season's 92-39 rout of the Huskers (11-6, 0-4) in Lawrence. But the Jayhawks started getting careless after going up 55-20 and Nebraska finally began hitting some baskets.
"We got sloppy in the second half," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Very sloppy. A lot of substitutions and different lineups, but I thought we were very sloppy in the second half, and I didn't expect that."
On 18 field goals, the Huskers had only five assists against a Kansas defense that had 13 steals en route to its 34th victory in 35 games.
As if the Huskers didn't already have enough problems trying to contain the taller and more talented Jayhawks, they also got mired in early foul trouble. Midway through the lopsided first half, starters Maric, Ryan Anderson and Cookie Miller all had two fouls.
They went without a field goal from 7:43 of the first half until only 9 seconds remained when Ade Dagunduro hit a short jumper.
"Aleks has got to be the guy," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. "He didn't score a point, therefore our team didn't play well. It makes it real tough. He's the focal point and he didn't score."
Darnell Jackson had 13 points and eight rebounds for Kansas, which is 24-3 against Nebraska since the Big 12 was formed in 1996.
Steve Harley had 16 points for Nebraska, the only Big 12 team without a conference win.
"They are just a much, much better basketball team than we are," Sadler said. "We almost have to play a perfect basketball game and we didn't do that. It's our goal and my responsibility to get this program to where they are at. This is where we want to be someday. As you can tell, we're not even close to that right now."
Kansas had 25 assists and shot 52 percent while winning its 28th straight regular-season home game and beating Nebraska for the 10 straight time.
The game began getting out of hand with about 8 minutes left in the first half when Russell Robinson stole the ball from Jay-R Strowbridge and the Nebraska guard simply reached out and grabbed Robinson's shirt to keep him from getting away, bringing a laugh from the big crowd and a quick whistle from the official standing right next to them.
Robinson made both free throws for a 35-11 lead, and the Jayhawks were in no danger of suffering their first loss.
If there is any pressure beginning to mount as one of two unbeaten teams in the country, Self and his players swear they don't feel it.
"I won't think about that until we have zero games left," Jackson said. "Before that, you don't even think about running the table. When it's over, we'll be satisfied."
This was the second rout of a Nebraska team by Kansas in Lawrence in the last few months. In October, the Jayhawks' football team beat the Cornhuskers 76-39.