November 22, 2011

Defense leads KU, UCLA next

Thomas Robinson scored 20 points for No. 14 Kansas (2-1, 0-0) in a 67-63 win over Georgetown (2-1, 0-0) Monday night in the night cap of the 2011 Maui Invitational.

After a disappointing loss to Kentucky last week in the Champions Classic, Kansas needed to get back on track with a marquee win over one of the better Big East teams, Georgetown. It certainly wasn't the easiest game for the Jayhawks, who led throughout but exchanged leads several times with Hoyas.

In the end, All American candidate Thomas Robinson scored 20 points to go with 12 rebounds-his third double-double of the year-en route to a solid win and defensive effort for Bill Self's squad.

Kansas put on an ally-oop display for fans in attendance, many of which likely passed on the New York trip to enjoy their Jayhawks in a warmer climate. Robinson himself had five monster dunks, several coming off lob plays.

Forward Justin Wesley also had an impressive dunk off a lob pass in which his elbows seemed to clear the rim.

For Georgetown, this was easily their toughest test of the season, having cruised past Savannah State and UNC-Greensboro in its two previous games. Junior Hollis Thompson was a sharp-shooter in the first half, scoring the majority of his 14 points .

In the second half, coach John Thompson III simply didn't receive the same production from his star forward and struggled to consistent offense from any one player.

As for the Jayhawks, it wasn't the prettiest game they have ever put together as an offensive unit, but credit must be given to their defense, especially against a very difficult Princeton-style offense which the Hoyas run.

Just when Georgetown was making yet another second half push to either tie or possibly take the lead, junior Elijah Johnson made a perfect steal and athletic move to escape his defender for the easy lay up to once again give Kansas a four-point lead.

From there, Thomas Robinson continued to do work in the low blocks, and junior guard Travis Releford sealed the game with two free throws.

The one major disappoint was the play of center Jeff Withey, who fouled out in the second half after a fairly lackluster performance. Coming off the Kentucky loss, Withey appeared to be headed down the right track, but against the Hoyas, fell back into the same pattern of getting pushed around in the paint and committing unnecessary fouls, albeit his fifth a somewhat phantom one.

Next Up

The Jayhawks will face the UCLA Bruins at 8:30 p.m. (CST) Tuesday evening in the second semifinal game of the day. Kansas and UCLA, two of the winningest programs of all time, have quite the rivalry over the past five years dating back to 2007 when the Bruins knocked Kansas out of the NCAA tournament.

Kansas then traveled to Los Angeles, Calif., where they took down the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion, followed by a squeaker of a win just a year ago in Allen Fieldhouse.

UCLA and coach Ben Howland have struggled to reach the level of his three-in-a-row Final Four teams just a few years ago, but are slowly working their way back to national prominence. Early departures to the NBA have hurt the Bruins over the past few seasons.

UCLA won their Monday Maui contest over host school Chaminade in easy fashion, 92-60, led by 19 points from guard Lazeric Jones. The Bruins also center Joshua Smith, who Kansas fans remember well from last year when the 6-foot-10, 305-pound center gave the Jayhawks fits in the low post.

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