Sophomores deliver: Kansas ousts Kentucky

Posted: March 19, 2007

CHICAGO - Kansas coach Bill Self said one of his biggest worries about Julian Wright was the sophomore forward's tendency to become too energetic.

In his hometown, in the arena where he used to watch Michael Jordan play, Wright used all of his energy in the right way last night, helping top-seeded Kansas advance to the Sweet 16 after beating Kentucky, 88-76, at the United Center.

The Jayhawks will face fourth-seeded Southern Illinois in the next round Thursday in San Jose, Calif.

"I worry about Julian because sometimes his energy level is off the charts, and that's not always good," Self said. "I thought he controlled his emotions very well coming back home. He was great and active and made easy plays for the most part."

Wright made it look easy, especially in the second half, when he scored 15 of his team-high 21 points. He also had eight rebounds.

Eighth-seeded Kentucky knocked ninth-seeded Villanova out of the tournament in the first round with a 67-58 win Friday in Chicago. But the Wildcats could not keep up with the Jayhawks in the second half. Kansas was overpowering as it built a 76-56 lead.

"We were able to get to the hole and break their pressure very well," Wright said.

Kansas is without a senior, but its three sophomore stars looked as if they'd been around a while.

Guard Mario Chalmers added to Wright's night with 16 points and eight assists. Guard Brandon Rush was a Kentucky-killer, making 6 of 7 three-pointers for 19 points.

"Brandon's a great shooter," Self said. "I don't think he's had a game where he's been in a roll like he was today."

Kansas connected on 10 of 16 three-pointers.

Self still was not happy that Kentucky outrebounded the Jayhawks, 32-30.

"Making shots cures a lot of ills," said Self, who formerly coached Illinois.

Kentucky was led by 6-foot-11 Randolph Morris' 22 points and forward Bobby Perry's 21, but other than 10 points from reserve Jodie Meeks, the Wildcats' guards did not have an impact, going 8 for 31.

"We're trying to get the ball inside," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "They keep the pressure on you at both ends of the court."

Smith was asked about the speculation involving his job security.

"I expect to be back," he said. "Let's put it that way."

The Jayhawks are happy to be sticking around in the tournament for a while after getting bounced in the first round in the last two seasons.

They got a pep talk from former Jayhawk Kirk Hinrich in the locker room after the win.

"He just told us to go get it, and nothing is promised," Wright said.

The game featured two of college basketball's most storied teams. The Jayhawks' 36 NCAA tournament trips are the fourth most ever, behind only Kentucky's 48, UCLA's 39 and North Carolina's 39.

Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or

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