Jayhawks, Salukis to slug it out

Posted: March 22, 2007

SAN JOSE - If you're looking for a ballet of a basketball game when top-seeded Kansas (32-4) and the fourth-seeded Salukis from Southern Illinois (29-6) meet tonight for a West Regional semifinal at HP Pavilion, divert your attention elsewhere.

This is gonna be Rocky vs. Appollo Creed I, a knockdown, drag-out, whoever-is-left-standing-at-the-end type of game.

Sure, Kansas is loaded with stud athletes in Brandon Rush, Julian Wright and Mario Chalmers. But Southern Illinois has a way of making opponents, no matter how Barishnikov-like they may be, look as bad as the first reject on "Dancing with the Stars."

"Our defense is a trust defense, where whoever has the ball, that's your guy, you're guarding him, and everybody else is trying to make sure if you do make a mistake, they're there for you," said SIU head coach Chris Lowery, the youngest coach in the tournament at 34.

The Salukis are third in the country in scoring defense, limiting the opposition to 56.1 points. Kansas ain't too shabby, either, holding 42 straight opponents, and 71 of the last 72, under 50 percent from the floor. For the season, they've allowed only 37.3 percent from the field.

Kansas might be the best team in the country right now, having won 13 in a row by an average of 84-64 and shooting a torrid 51 percent from the floor.

Still, they'll face a Southern Illinois team that is used to winning. Consider that the Salukis have won 155 games since the 2001-02 season, eighth most in the country.

"As far as playing them, it's not what they do, it's what we have to do to win," said SIU's Jamaal Tatum, who leads the team with 15.1 points a game. "We have to play hard defense, stick to our defensive principles and play team defense. We have to rebound the ball and limit turnovers."

Not a mention of offense came from Tatum.

Do you see why this one could be a little ugly? Yo, Adrian!

West notes

SIU's starting forward and third-leading scorer Matt Shaw practiced gingerly on a sprained ankle yesterday. Lowery said he expects him to go, if his lateral movement is improved today . . . If you close your eyes, UCLA coach Ben Howland sounds a lot like John Travolta . . . The top five scorers for Kansas are freshmen and sophomores . . . The 29 victories for the Salukis are a school record . . . Self won his 100th game at KU in his 128th game, the third quickest total behind Ted Owens (1964-83) and some guy named Larry Brown. They both did it in 127 games . . . Kansas' four losses have all been by seven points or less . . . Neither Kansas nor UCLA have a senior on its roster . . . Kansas has 75 wins in the tournament, which ranks fifth behind Kentucky (100), UCLA (92), North Carolina (91) and Duke (85). Oddly, all but North Carolina were in the West Regional this year . . . Howland is 89-40 in his four seasons at UCLA. In his four seasons at Pittsburgh, he was also 89-40. *

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