Robinson steps up in 2nd half for Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)
Just imagine what they would have said if Kansas lost.
''We didn't play well in the first half,'' said Self, whose team trailed by two at the break. ''We did some better things in the second half, but still, that wasn't very good playing.''
Could have fooled Aggies coach Billy Kennedy.
''Kansas is very aggressive and very good defensively,'' he said. ''We have to do a better job of being a little more physical.''
Tyshawn Taylor added 17 points in another solid performance, and Kansas (17-3, 7-0 Big 12) used a big surge through the middle of the second half to wrap up its 10th consecutive victory and extend its winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse to 17 in a row.
Kansas is 18-1 against Texas A&M (11-8, 2-5), the lone loss coming in February 2007.
''I feel like a win in conference - a win like this is ugly, but all the wins in conference count,'' Taylor said. ''It wasn't pretty.''
Elston Turner had a career-high 24 points and David Loubeau added 15 for the Aggies, who played without starting forward Khris Middleton, their second-leading scorer. He missed the game after tweaking his right knee over the weekend, the same one he had surgery on in November.
Senior guard Dash Harris also was hobbled but played the entire game.
''You look at how limited we are, you lose Khris Middleton, that puts a lot of pressure on our team,'' Kennedy said. ''We really struggle offensively.''
They struggled to contain Robinson, too.
One of the leading candidates for national player of the year, the junior forward was held to two points in the first half on 1-for-6 shooting, as Texas A&M collapsed two or three defenders on him whenever he got the ball in the post.
He started bulling his way to the basket more effectively in the second half, going to the foul line 10 times - and making all of them. He also finished with 10 rebounds.
''The defense was trying not to let me touch it, so I had to knock my free throws down,'' Robinson said. ''I just kept posting up. I just got the whistle more in the second half.''
The Jayhawks threatened to turn the Big Monday matchup into a big snooze early on.
Taylor picked up right where he left off the past three games, hitting his first basket and then adding a 3-pointer as Kansas raced to an 11-0 lead. Texas A&M turned it over on four of its first five possessions and missed its first four shots along with two free throws.
The teams traded baskets before the Aggies went on a 16-2 run that gobbled up nearly 5 minutes, gave them the lead and silenced another packed house at Allen Fieldhouse.
Naji Hibbert started it with a 3-pointer and Turner added another of his own. Even freshman backup Daniel Alexander got into the act, hitting a pair of 3-pointers after coming into the game having made two all season.
''The whole team had to step up,'' Turner said. ''We showed glimpses.''
Kansas pulled even at 28 when Jeff Withey converted a three-point play with 3:44 left, but that was the final basket until Dash Harris' layup at the buzzer gave Texas A&M the halftime lead.
The game remained close until Robinson converted a three-point play with 6:55 left that gave Kansas a 47-42 lead. Robinson added two free throws on the next trip - at that point he'd scored 11 of the Jayhawks' 13 second-half points - and Elijah Johnson's jumper made it 51-42.
The lead reached 55-53 when Withey scored in the post and made a couple of free throws, and then Robinson answered two foul shots by Turner by tracking down a rebound, putting it back on the glass and getting fouled in the process. The free throw made it 58-47.
Kansas managed to coast the rest of the way against the team that was picked by the league's coaches as the co-favorite to win the Big 12 along with the Jayhawks.
While Kansas remains the lone unbeaten team in conference play, Texas A&M has lost seven of its last 10 and is already in danger of playing itself out of the NCAA tournament.
''I'm proud of the way our guys competed. I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity to win. Thomas Robinson and their length, and their free throw shooting, was a big key in them getting the win,'' Kennedy said. ''I thought we executed our game plan about as well as we could tonight.''
It just wasn't good enough.