Norther Arizona at KU preview


Brandon Rush may not be completely healthy, but his presence alone has already made a difference for Kansas.

After playing his first game since knee surgery, Rush looks to have more of an impact when the fourth-ranked Jayhawks host Northern Arizona on Wednesday in the Jayhawk Invitational at Allen Fieldhouse.

Rush, the 6-foot-6 junior guard who averaged a team-leading 13.8 points last season, had seven points and three rebounds in limited action in the Jayhawks' 92-60 win over Washburn on Thursday.

Rush, who declared for last summer's NBA draft but pulled out after injuring his knee in June, wasn't expected back until December. After months of rehabilitation, Rush returned just in time, as Kansas (3-0) will be without Sherron Collins - who started in place of Rush - for about six weeks because of a broken foot.

"I'm not at 100 percent. I'm probably about 85 to 80 percent," said Rush, who played 12 minutes in a reserve role. "I don't have my whole explosion back yet. It was very important to just get the flow of the game back and get my timing back."

Though Rush didn't play extensive minutes, just being on the floor gave his teammates an emotional lift.

"Brandon was definitely the spark," guard Rodrick Stewart said. "It was a real close game until he came in. We got the lead because of him. I'm so glad he's back."

Forward Darrell Arthur had 14 points to lead the Jayhawks, who look to win their 600th game at their 52-year-old home arena Wednesday.

With Rush back, Kansas has all but one starter - current NBA player Julian Wright - from last season's team that won 33 games and the Big 12 regular season title, and reached the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.

"I was really happy for him," coach Bill Self said of Rush. "You can tell he's not quite what he was. But he'll get there."

Rush scored 21 points with six rebounds and four assists in Kansas' 91-57 win over Northern Arizona on Nov. 11, 2006. Though his minutes should increase Wednesday, Rush likely won't be pushed with the Jayhawks facing Arizona on Saturday in the finale of the round-robin invitational.

Kansas, which looks to win its 12th straight home game over a non-conference opponent, is 3-0 against Northern Arizona.

The Lumberjacks (3-1) beat Mississippi Valley State 65-56 on the road Monday for their second straight win. Josh Wilson had 17 points and Matt Johnson added his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Northern Arizona, which returns two starters from last season's 18-12 team.

The Lumberjacks will be facing their second ranked opponent of the season. They fell 76-69 to then-No. 17 Arizona on Nov. 13, and have lost their last 10 games against Top 25 teams.

"It is exciting," Johnson said of facing the Jayhawks. "(Mississippi Valley) was a good test because they pressure the ball like Kansas is going to on Wednesday. It was a good warmup game to get us ready."

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