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No. 17 Kansas beats North Dakota 84-58

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson (0) pulls in a rebound away from North Dakota's Doug Archer (33) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. Robinson contributed 30 points and 21 rebounds as Kansas won 84-58. Kansas forward Thomas Robinson (0) pulls in a rebound away from North Dakota's Doug Archer (33) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. Robinson contributed 30 points and 21 rebounds as Kansas won 84-58. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
December 31, 2011
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LAWRENCE, Kan.—Saturday did not mark just the last day of 2011 for North Dakota.

In all probability, it was the last day the Fighting Sioux will be officially known as the Fighting Sioux.

However, through a series of events, the nickname could make a comeback. Despite the 84-58 loss to No. 17 Kansas on Saturday, coach Brian Jones said his team played hard.

"I talked about going out and representing, not only our program and your families, but representing our former athletes and former student bodies and alumni who have a lot of passion for this," Jones said. "We're playing on New Year's Eve for a reason, so go out there and embrace it. Lay it all out there and understand when you walk off that floor, there are a lot of people you're representing."

Jones told his team to not let it own them, but to understand that there has been a lot of tradition behind the mascot.

When Kansas coach Bill Self was at Illinois, he was part of Chief Illiniwek, which was the mascot until February 2007. He said the nickname switch was a big deal at Illinois.

"Everybody that supports the Illini, that was a sad day," Self said. "I'm sure it will be sad for North Dakota, too."

Troy Huff led the Fighting Sioux with 16 points. Aaron Anderson added 11 and Jordan Allard scored seven points.

"We have a great community (in Grand Forks, N.D.) that has been behind that name for a while, but if it causes issues with anybody that will affect our program, we'll be all right without it," Allard said. "We'll continue to go in the right direction."

Allard opened the scoring 4 minutes and 10 seconds into the game with a 3-pointer that he banked in, but the lead was brief.

On Kansas' next two possessions, Thomas Robinson was fed alley-oops to give Kansas the lead for the rest of the day.

"I've guarded this as an assistant (at Iowa) prepping for coach Self when he was at Illinois," Jones said. "They want you to front and get caught on an angle so that they can just catch and dunk or lay it in. I think, because of his sheer size, tape and DVDs do that young man no justice with the size of his body and strength."

Robinson had 30 points and 21 rebounds, both career-highs, while adding four assists.

But as head-turning as the numbers are, the 30 points and 21 rebounds were not what excited Self the most.

"He played the most unselfishly he's ever played," Self said. "He was poised. I just thought he played great."

Statistically speaking, the muscular 6-foot-10 junior had Kansas' finest game in more than half a century. Quick research by the athletic department indicated no one in the storied program had registered 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Wayne Hightower had 36 and 21 against Missouri on Feb. 13, 1961. It's believed to be the ninth time a Jayhawk has turned the trick. Robinson's monster game also included four assists, two steals and a block.

"He should have had six or seven assists if we could make a shot," Self said.

The Fighting Sioux tried both single- and double-teams against him.

"He is so patient down there," Jones said. "He lets the game come to him."

His first two years, fighting for playing time behind twins Marcus and Markieff Morris, patience and smart play were not what characterized Robinson's game.

But now he admits he's made so much improvement, "I can't even put it in words."

"I was out of control. I was just a raw athlete. Now I know I'm a better basketball player. I just know more about the game," he said.

North Dakota (5-8) simply had no answer for the muscular junior. With 12 points and 10 rebounds, he socked away his Big 12-leading ninth double-double by halftime as the Jayhawks (10-3) won their 55th straight nonconference home game.

An 11-4 run ending the first half gave the Jayhawks a 37-21 halftime lead. Robinson got the second half started by stealing a pass and feeding Travis Releford on a fast break three-point play. Robinson capped a 14-6 run with a hook shot and a one-handed dunk off a fastbreak pass from Releford for a 51-30 lead.

Troy Huff missed his first four shots but wound up with 16 points for the Fighting Sioux, who fell to 0-7 away from home and were completely outclassed by the bigger, quicker seven-time defending Big 12 champs. Aaron Anderson had 11 points for the defending Great West Conference champions.

Tyshawn Taylor had 18 points and Releford added 14 for the Jayhawks, who held a 42-29 rebounding edge and had 21 assists.

Robinson was 10 of 14 from the field and 9 of 12 from the free throw line. In one play in the first half, he surprised the beleaguered North Dakota defense by hitting a long 3-pointer. The 30 points surpassed the 26 he scored against Long Beach State and the 21 rebounds erased the personal best of 18 he had against Davidson earlier this season.

Teammates say Robinson was the hardest worker on the team over the summer.

"He was a beast today and he's been playing like a beast for us," Taylor said. "I hope he can get some more of these 30-20s. He did a really great job of letting the game come to him and not trying to force it. I think that just shows how much he's improved as a player and having a better understanding of the game."

Robinson said he worked every day with one goal: "To be the best player in the country."

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