College Basketball Nation: Dan Munson
December, 6, 2011
By Jason King | ESPN.com
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Thomas Robinson scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Jeff Withey just missed a triple-double with 13 points, 13 boards and nine blocks to lead No. 13 Kansas to an 88-80 victory over Long Beach State Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse. Here are some quick thoughts from the game.
Overview: The Jayhawks played their best basketball of the season in the first half, when they shot a blistering 59 percent from the field and led by as many as 19 points. Robinson made all eight of his field-goal attempts and had 18 points at intermission. Long Beach State, though, refused to go away. The 49ers, a team that won at Pitt earlier this season, trailed by 12 (51-39) at the break and pulled within four points (60-56) midway through the second half. The 49ers kept it close all the way until the 47-second mark, when James Ennis swished a 3-pointer to pull his team within four, 84-80. But Kansas staved off LBSU by making all four of its foul shots down the stretch.
Turning point: KU led just 77-72 when Robinson stepped to the free throw line with 2:46 remaining. He missed both foul shots, but Kansas grabbed the offensive rebound. The Jayhawks milked some time off the clock, attempted another shot and missed -- but KU corralled the offensive rebound again. This time it capitalized as Tyshawn Taylor made a floater while being fouled. Taylor swished the ensuing free throw to give his team an 80-72 lead with 2:09 remaining. Long Beach still threatened, but there simply wasn't enough time.
Star of the Game: Forgot all that talk about the Jayhawks not having much in the frontcourt beyond Robinson. Withey was a major force in the paint Tuesday. He altered as many shots as he blocked and scored on some nice turnaround moves and hook shots. Withey's toughness, or lack of it, has been questioned in the past. But this season he isn't backing down from anyone. Withey will need to play with that same mentality if Kansas has any hopes of defeating Ohio State on Saturday.
What the win means for Kansas: The Jayhawks needed a victory like this heading into their matchup with the Buckeyes. Kansas played beautiful basketball in the first half and then responded after taking Long Beach State's best shot after intermission. Kansas got a much better effort from struggling guards Taylor and Elijah Johnson, who combined for 19 points and nine assists. Turnovers, though, were a big problem for the Hawks. They committed 22 of them. That won't cut it against OSU. Either way, this was a good win against a very solid 49ers team that is stacked with length, athleticism and talent. Kansas could have easily lost Tuesday, but showed a ton of fight and toughness and came away with the victory. Bill Self has to be encouraged.
What the loss means for Long Beach State: The 49ers are now 4-4, but three of their losses are against Kansas, Louisville and San Diego State (in overtime). Coach Dan Monson has to be pleased with his team's resolve, as LBSU never gave up or seemed flustered when Kansas got off to such a hot start. Winning in Allen Fieldhouse is a tall task for any team -- especially one from a mid-major conference. But Long Beach State definitely put a scare into KU. Games like this will pay off for the 49ers once Big West conference play begins next month.
Up next: Long Beach State continues a brutal stretch of games when it takes on North Carolina Saturday in Chapel Hill. Kansas, meanwhile, will face its biggest test of the season when it hosts Jared Sullinger and No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. Tipoff is at 3:15 p.m. ET on ESPN.