Rush gradually making way back as Kansas stops Arizona in OT

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Brandon Rush sneaked along the baseline behind Arizona's defense, sprang off both legs and threw down an alley-oop, sending the crowd to its feet and vibrations across the floor.

Now the reverberations may be felt across college basketball: Rush is back and Kansas could be better than ever.

Rush scored five of his 17 points in overtime, including two dunks on his surgically-repaired knee, helping the fourth-ranked Jayhawks pull out a tough 76-72 victory over Arizona on Sunday night.

"It felt pretty good to get out there and just play," Rush said. "I've been looking forward to playing an entire game. I feel fine."

Rush expected to be playing in the NBA this season, but a torn ACL during a pickup game over the summer changed his plans.

After being eased back into the lineup his first two games back, the junior guard was much more of a factor against the Wildcats, driving hard to the basket, and bouncing up quickly after hitting the floor hard a couple of times.

After barely missing a miracle shot at the end of regulation, Rush scored on a breakaway dunk to put Kansas up 73-65 in overtime, then burst along the baseline to seal the Jayhawks' hard-fought win.

Darrell Arthur had 20 points and Mario Chalmers added 14 for Kansas (5-0), off to its best start since winning its first 14 games in 2004-05. And it could get better now that Rush is close to full strength again.

"It just makes the whole team play better, seeing him out there," Arthur said. "When we see him play hard, everybody's going to play hard."

Arizona (3-2) rallied from an early deficit and kept it close to the end, thanks to Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless. Budinger hit six 3-pointers and had 27 points to help the Wildcats come back from an 11-point deficit, and Bayless hit some key shots down the stretch to finish with 19.

What hurt the Wildcats was turnovers.

Playing its fifth straight game under coach Kevin O'Neill while Hall of Famer Lute Olson is on a leave of absence for personal reasons, Arizona turned it over 25 times, including seven by Bayless. Somehow, the Wildcats still had a chance to win.

"A lot of people doubt this team, but I think tonight's performance shows that we can play with anybody in the country," Budinger said. "As you can see, our team has been getting better each game and we are continuing to improve."

So is Rush. He began the game on the bench for the third straight time, entering 4 minutes in and quickly hitting a 3-pointer on his first shot attempt. He followed with a hard-driving layup 18 seconds later, finishing the first half with 10 points in 15 minutes.

Rush started the second half and played 36 minutes -- eight more than his first two games combined -- hitting six of 12 shots.

"I know one thing, he's getting the day off tomorrow," Kansas coach Bill Self said.

Neither team led by more than four in a back-and-forth second half, setting up the type of finish everyone expected between two powerhouse programs.

Budinger put Arizona up 62-60 with a pullup jumper along the baseline with 86 seconds left, then Mario Chalmers hit two free throws to tie it with 27 seconds left, giving Arizona a chance for the final shot.

The Wildcats worked the clock down as Budinger tried to free himself for the winning shot, but Bret Brielmaier intercepted the pass and his jumper from the wing fell short.

"He had an open look, but he wouldn't be my choice to take the last shot," O'Neill said with a smile. "I love him to death."

That gave Rush a final chance. He gathered in the rebound and let fly from just beyond midcourt, banking a shot off the backboard that brought the crowd to its feet. The ball nearly went in the first time, then hung on the rim for a tantalizing second before dropping away while the crowd groaned.

"I thought it was in," Rush said.

Kansas seemed ready for a rout early in its first big test of the season, hitting 11 of its first 20 shots and forcing 11 turnovers to go up 20-9. But the Jayhawks started throwing the ball away, causing Self to pound the scorer's table, and missing from the outside.

Kansas shot 50 percent for the game, scoring all but 14 of its points from the lane or the free-throw line.

"We don't play smart," Self said. "We had a chance to crack the game open and had about six straight terrible offensive and defensive possessions consecutively. We played stubborn, which is very frustrating."