Brandon Rush leads Jayhawks past North Carolina, into national title game against Memphis Print
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Saturday, 05 April 2008 18:25
NCAAB Headline News


 SAN ANTONIO (AP) -As Kansas' 84-66 victory over North Carolina wound down, Brandon Rush looked into the Alamodome stands and smiled.
``I was looking at my mama (Glenda Rush),'' Rush said. ``She was so proud of me. She was just smiling back at me.''
This was the ultimate ``Hi, mom'' moment.
Rush scored 25 points, three fewer than his career high, as the Jayhawks stunned the Tar Heels in the national semifinals Saturday night. No other Jayhawk had more than 12.
Rush's mother will have another chance to see Rush play Monday night, when Kansas goes for its third NCAA title and first since 1988 against Memphis. The Jayhawks have a shot if Rush plays the way he did early on against the Tar Heels.
With five minutes to go in the first half, the score was even.
Brandon Rush 12, North Carolina 12.
Kansas needed Rush to come out hot against the mighty Tar Heels, the top-seeded team in the NCAA tournament, and did he ever.
He hit five of his first six shots from the floor, including a pair of 3-pointers. Rush isn't the most vocal leader, but with each bucket he seemed to be telling his teammates, ``We can do this.''
Rush's fast start helped the Jayhawks build an early 28-point lead.
``He knocked shots down for us,'' teammate Russell Robinson said. ``We got out in transition and got easy baskets. We got him going early.''
Rush finished 11-for-17 from the floor, a career high for field goals.
Rush also had seven rebounds, which put him among Kansas' leaders on a night the Jayhawks hammered North Carolina 42-33 on the boards.
``He was very aggressive and played one of his best games,'' teammate Sasha Kaun said.
All in all, it was a big night for the junior from Kansas City - and what he envisioned when he endured the long recovery from knee surgery last summer.
``It definitely means the world to me,'' Rush said. ``This is one of my goals since I've been back at Kansas and during my whole rehabbing thing.''
There's been heavy speculation that Rush will declare himself eligible for the NBA draft after the season. After all, he appeared headed for the NBA last year. But those plans changed abruptly when Rush tore his right anterior cruciate ligament, and he returned to the Jayhawks.
His recovery from June surgery was difficult at times, but Rush said he felt ``100 percent'' as he entered the postseason.
He looked it Saturday, though he wasn't nearly as dominant down the stretch as he was in the first half. As Carolina edged within 10 points midway through the second half, Rush badly missed on a pair of 3-pointers.
The player who had vowed one day earlier to attack the basket was suddenly content to launch jumpers - exactly what coach Bill Self didn't want Rush to do.
But Rush turned aggressive again as the Jayhawks recovered from a midgame swoon and put the Tar Heels away.
With Kansas clinging to a 67-61 lead with about 5 minutes remaining, Rush dribbled past a defender and sliced into the lane for a left-handed lay-up.
North Carolina never came within eight points the rest of the way.
``Brandon played great today,'' teammate Darnell Jackson said. ``He was unbelievable.''
 

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