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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT | WEST REGIONAL REPORT

Southern Illinois hopes to slow Kansas

March 22, 2007|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

SAN JOSE — The key for the Southern Illinois Salukis will be to resist the lure.

Kansas basketball plays full speed ahead, the way every kid who ever picked up a Nerf ball and began running toward the little basket on his closet door wants to play. Run, then dunk, then run some more.

Kansas, the top-seeded team in the NCAA West Regional, will play No. 4 Southern Illinois today at HP Pavilion and the Salukis (29-6) spent Wednesday explaining that they will not end up the way Kentucky did.

Several Kentucky players suggested after their 88-76 loss to the Jayhawks (32-4) that they couldn't figure out exactly what happened. They had hoped to force a slower pace, keep the score a little lower.

Southern Illinois Coach Chris Lowery said that wouldn't be a problem for his team.

"We have a system in place," Lowery said. "There's high-scoring teams within our league that we've slowed down. You don't get coaxed because we have some older kids and they understand tempo, they understand what we're trying to do. I don't think we'll be tricked or forced into playing a way that we don't want to play unless we totally lose our minds and go crazy."

The Salukis, of the Missouri Valley Conference, are ranked third nationally in scoring defense. They give up an average of 56.1 points; Kansas averages nearly 80.

Lowery, 34, understands that slowing teams in his conference is not the same as slowing a team, as he says, "that is full of NBA lottery picks."

Among the Kansas hordes are NBA prospects Mario Chalmers, a quick-footed, quick-thinking 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard; Brandon Rush, a strong-bodied, strong-willed 6-6 sophomore shooting guard; Sherron Collins, a 5-11 freshman who revs up the tempo; and Julian Wright, a 6-8 forward who has point guard offensive moves and an aptitude for defense.

The Jayhawks also have the memory of a first-round loss last year to Bradley, another MVC team.

Kansas junior Russell Robinson said the Salukis remind him of Bradley. "They're pretty aggressive, athletic guys who can make plays," he said.

Center Sasha Kaun added, "A team from the Missouri Valley, you know they're going to play hard and especially from what happened last year, that should be enough motivation."

Southern Illinois, in its third Sweet 16, may be without second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, junior forward Matt Shaw.

Shaw sprained his left ankle last weekend. "He did a couple of shooting drills today," Lowery said. "He did a little three-man weave. But it's still very ginger. Right now it's just day to day."

Kansas Coach Bill Self expects the Jayhawks will see Shaw. "I know Matt a little bit," he said. "He's a tough kid. We're preparing like he'll be out there."

*

UCLA assistant Kerry Keating, who has been mentioned as a candidate for the San Diego coaching job that opened when Brad Holland was fired, said he would not comment on his future until after UCLA's season was finished and added, "I have had no contact with San Diego."

*

Darren Collison, UCLA's point guard, said his left ankle -- sprained last week during practice -- was still sore but "feels 100% better than it was last Saturday." That was when UCLA beat Indiana, 54-49.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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