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April 7, 2008

Rush helps lead Kansas to championship

VIDEO: Game highlights | MORE: Rivals.com NCAA Tourney Central

SAN ANTONIO — Chasing their first NCAA title in 20 years, the Kansas Jayhawks knew they were asking a lot from Brandon Rush.

All they needed from him was another big game on offense and a superb effort on Memphis star Chris Douglas-Roberts at the other end.

Rush gave them one out of two - and that was good enough to help the Jayhawks beat Memphis 75-68 in overtime in the national championship game Monday night.

Douglas-Roberts scored 22 points, one below his average in the NCAA tournament, but Rush made him work for every one.

"I think I did a pretty good job on him," Rush said. "I let him get out in the first half. He had 13 in the first half.

"In the second half, I tried to buckle down, sit down on his left hand," Rush said. "Then my team helped me out too. So they did a good job on him too."

Rush scored only 12 points - but four came in overtime, as the Jayhawks pulled away.

At times, Rush was so tight on Douglas-Roberts that he seemed to be inside his tattoos. Douglas-Roberts had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor in the first half, but Rush never gave him a chance to take over the game when it mattered. Douglas-Roberts had only one field goal in the second half and one in overtime.

Early in overtime, Rush pressured Douglas-Roberts into a turnover and then scored on a layup at the other end. Kansas led the rest of the way.

"They were really sagging," Douglas-Roberts said. "So wherever I drove, it was a man there. It made it real difficult to drive. And they pretty much played like that the whole game."

Rush helped lead the Jayhawks to their third NCAA title, and first since 1988. A fan in the Jayhawks-heavy Alamodome crowd flashed a placard that read, "1988: Twenty years in the making." The man who led the Jayhawks to that title, Danny Manning, was sitting on the Kansas bench as one of Bill Self's assistant coaches.

Rush hoped to follow in Manning's footsteps, and now he has. Rush, a junior from Kansas City, hasn't announced whether he will return for his final season.

Asked about his future, Rush said, "I'm not worried about that right now. I'm' going to have time to think about it, discuss it with my family and stuff."

If this was the end of the line for Rush in college, it's been quite a journey.

He was Big 12 freshman of the year in 2005-06 and named to the first of three straight All-Big 12 first team.

Rush was ready to turn pro last summer. He declared for the NBA draft, but didn't sign with an agent, and that allowed him to return to Kansas after he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a pickup game. Rush had surgery in June.

"It just feels good right now, just coming from what I had, ACL surgery, coming back and giving my teammates a Final Four - I mean a championship."

It took Rush time to regain his bounce and his stamina; he played as many as 30 minutes only once before Jan. 5.

As Rush recovered, he often deferred to teammates on offense. But as the season wound down, Self began to ask for more from his best pure scorer.

And Rush delivered, beginning with a career-high 28-point outburst against Texas A&M in the Big 12 tournament.

Against North Carolina in the national semifinals, Rush scored 25 points.

Rush wasn't as assertive Monday night. His first bucket didn't come until 10:58 to play in the first half, when he drove for a bucket.

Rush didn't score again until 2:31 remained in the first half, when he barreled into the lane and was fouled by Joey Dorsey. Rush scored and knocked down the free throw to give Kansas a 31-28 lead.

Otherwise, Rush wasn't much of a factor on offense. But he had given the Jayhawks what they needed at the other end of the floor, where this game was won.

VIDEO: Game highlights | MORE: Rivals.com NCAA Tourney Central



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