LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)—Kansas coach Bill Self questioned Brandon Rush’s aggressiveness at the start of the week.
Self got his answer Saturday night.
Rush scored 16 of his season-high 19 points in the first half and third-ranked Kansas continued its domination over Nebraska with a 79-58 victory.
“That’s going to be the last time he’s going to say anything to me about being aggressive,” Rush said. “I put myself in a position to score, and I got hot in the first half.”
Rush hit a couple quick 3-pointers and scored 8 of the Jayhawks’ first 14 points to start another of KU’s beatdowns of the Cornhuskers.
The three-time defending Big 12 champion Jayhawks (16-0, 1-0) won their 17th straight conference opener and are among three remaining unbeaten teams in the nation, along with North Carolina and Memphis.
The victory was the Jayhawks’ ninth straight against Nebraska and 18th in the last 19 meetings.
Nebraska (11-3, 0-1), which was off to its best start since 1994-95, saw its six-game win streak end and found out it has a ways to go before it’s ready to play with the best of the Big 12.
Rush, the Jayhawks’ leading scorer the last two seasons, drew criticism from Self early in the week for being tentative offensively. Before Saturday, Rush hadn’t scored more than 13 points in a game since November. He took just eight shots in last weekend’s win at Boston College, and just seven against Loyola (Md.) on Tuesday.
“Brandon definitely took what coach said and got a little more aggressive,” Russell Robinson said. “He carried us in the first half. We fed off him.”
Rush showed no hesitation, taking the open shot when he had it and passing to teammates when he didn’t. He made a season-high five 3-pointers on seven attempts and sat down for the last 10 minutes as Self played his reserves.
“He was terrific the first half and played pretty well the whole game,” Self said. “I thought he looked like the old Brandon.”
Rush also had six rebounds and four assists.
“Any time Brandon has that many assists, it’s probably a really good thing,” Self said.
Rush had major surgery on his right knee in June and wasn’t expected to play until December. He came back by mid-November, and he refuses to use his knee as an excuse for any shortcomings in his offensive game.
“I think I’m back,” he said. “I’m starting to rebound the ball well rim-high like I did before I got hurt.”
Mario Chalmers had 14 points and Robinson and Sasha Kaun 10 apiece for the Jayhawks, who shot 53 percent against an opponent that led the Big 12 in field-goal defense.
Aleks Maric led Nebraska with 19 points.
Last season, the Jayhawks blew out Nebraska twice by a combined 73 points.
Saturday, they picked up where they left off, with the Jayhawks making their first five shots to go up 12-5.
Nebraska got to 29-24 late in the first half, but the Huskers were no match for the Jayhawks’ superior athleticism.
Kansas went on a 10-0 run while Maric and Ade Dagunduro were on the bench with two fouls apiece. Paul Velander’s 3-pointer ended a stretch of seven scoreless Nebraska possessions, but Chalmers hit a 3 of his own to give Kansas a 42-30 halftime lead.
The Huskers got a scare in the second half when Maric, their season scoring leader, lay face down on his stomach under the Nebraska basket after diving for a loose ball. Play continued at the other end while Maric lay motionless. He walked to the bench on his own after athletic trainers applied towels to his face to treat cuts over his eye and mouth.
Maric returned after the next stoppage and appeared no worse for the wear, making his final two shots.
Nebraska committed 12 turnovers and limited the Jayhawks to 15 points in transition—figures that sat well with Huskers coach Doc Sadler.
“We got beat by 21,” Sadler said, “and as sick as this may sound, I’m not that disappointed in how we played.”
The Devaney Sports Center crowd of 13,829, the largest since 2002, had at least one thing to cheer. Chants of “Bo, Bo, Bo” erupted as new football coach Bo Pelini was introduced at halftime. Pelini, who replaces the fired Bill Callahan, is fresh off his national championship as LSU’s defensive coordinator.
“We can’t get on the field quick enough,” Pelini told fans, punctuating his remarks with “Go Big Red.”