Kansas center Thomas Robinson was the bright spot in an otherwise sluggish 84-58 win over North Dakota at Allen Field House.
Robinson scored 30 points and collected 21 rebounds, both career highs, despite being double and even tripled-teamed at times Saturday. He becomes the third Jayhawk to pull the feat off, alongside Wayne Hightower and Wilt Chamberlain (who did it seven times).
Robinson is also the fifth Big 12 player to do it, alongside Michael Beasley, Mario Boggans, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin (twice).
KU coach was effusive in his praise after the game, calling it “the best game of (Robinson's) career.”
“He played great. He is so unselfish, and he didn't force one shot,” Self said. "We told him if he'd become a better passer and be more patient, he'd score more points, and he did that today."
Robinson was pleased, as well: this was a game he needed heading into Big 12 play.
“Coach's biggest thing before the game was to get momentum going into conference,” he said. “All I wanted to do tonight was send a message and get a full head of steam going into conference.”
Robinson only needed 14 shots to get his 30 points, but his teammates were not so accurate or efficient against the out-manned Sioux. The Jayhawks shot just 40.4% for the game, including 29.6% in the first half.
Four Jayhawks played 30-plus minutes in a game in which one would think Self would empty his bench ala the Howard rout on Thursday. It didn't work out that way. Robinson, Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson all got more than 30 minutes. Sixth man Conner Teahan played 29. After that, the minutes played drop off a cliff, thanks to what Self called “ridiculous” bench play in the first half. Jordan Juenemann led the bench with seven minutes, including four in the first half when Self was looking for someone – anyone – to bring some energy.
Starter Jeff Withey played eight minutes Saturday, just one in the second half, and earned time in Self's dog house for his unwillingness to go hard after rebounds. He joined Naadir Tharpe,Justin Wesley and Kevin Young for nearly the entire second half. The lack of PT shouldn't have come as a surprise to them.
“They knew. They knew,” Self said. “We made it real clear at halftime. They each got a minute (in the second half) to prove me wrong, and they didn't.”
Logically, the guys with the minutes were the guys who produced. Three Jayhawks joined Robinson in double figures: Releford (11), Taylor (18 along with five assists) and Johnson (11 along with seven assists). Teahan tossed in nine.
Self's message to his bench was not-so-coincidentally timed. Kansas starts Big 12 play Wednesday night against Kansas State, a ranked team that's tough as nails and will require Kansas to play nearly mistake-free basketball to win. The Wildcats are also a team that regains the ball on 42 percent of their missed shots. This is a grave concern for Self.
“We had two guys grab offensive rebounds,” Self lamented. “Two guys. And the last two minutes (of the game) don't count.”
Robinson had eight offensive boards and Releford snagged five. Juenemann collected one just seconds after he entered the game in the first half, and reserve Christian Garrett had one in the closing minute of the game.
“We controlled the glass against Georgetown, Kentucky, Duke, Ohio State. We've shown that we could go get it, but we haven't here of late, and that's disappointing to me,” Self said.