ISU's Stinson has Kansas' attention

Cyclones guard has scored 27 points in three straight contests entering today's game

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Just like Missouri's Thomas Gardner, who dropped 40 on Kansas University's shell-shocked defense earlier this season, Iowa State's Curtis Stinson is capable of putting up points in a hurry.

Nobody in the Big 12 Conference knows that better than KU sophomore Russell Robinson, who grew up playing against Stinson on the asphalt courts in the Bronx, their shared New York hometown.

"One thing about Curtis ... just don't let him get comfortable," Robinson said emphatically of the player who takes a 19.1 points-per-game average off 46.5 percent shooting into today's KU-Iowa State game.

Tipoff is 11 a.m., with a live telecast on ESPN, Sunflower Broadband Channel 33.

"If he starts hitting shots and starts getting too confident, you are going to be in for a long game. Basically, you need to disrupt him and never let him get into a good rhythm," Rice High graduate Robinson added of Stinson, who attended Bronx Regional High two years and Winchendon Prep two years.

"He's really got the green light there. If he plays like that, it's kind of dangerous. We've got to get to him."

Robinson, who, at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, figures to guard the similarly sized Stinson (6-3, 215) today, may engage in some chitchat with Stinson during stoppages of play.

"He's a great guy," Robinson said of his pal, who has had three games of 30 or more points in his three seasons at ISU -- 35 against Mountain State, 32 against Rutgers and 30 versus Virginia. He also has had 28 career 20-point games, 12 this season. "We played a lot against each other, the most between the ages of 14 and 16."

So far in college, Robinson is 1-1 in games against Stinson's Cyclones.

Stinson, who scored 18 points off 6-of-20 shooting in KU's 71-66 victory over ISU last Jan. 12 in Hilton Coliseum, exploded for 29 points off 10-of-23 marksmanship in the Cyclones' 63-61 victory over the Jayhawks in the rematch Feb. 19 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Robinson had three points in the game in Ames and failed to score in the OT game at Allen.

"Curtis is a phenomenal player, a once-in-a-lifetime player," ISU coach Wayne Morgan said of Stinson, who made the trip back to New York last week to visit his mother, who was rushed to the hospital with heart problems. He's on call to head home to be with his mom as the situation dictates.

"If you start of think of the guys better than him around the country you're going to get stuck pretty fast. He's pretty good," Morgan added of Stinson, who has scored 27 points in three consecutive games -- an 82-58 rout at Missouri, 86-81 overtime home loss to Texas A&M and 88-75 win at Nebraska.

The same is being said of KU's Bronx native -- Robinson -- who shook off the disappointment of a shaky freshman season to become one of KU's best defenders and steadiest players his soph campaign.

"If you ask me who gives us the pulse of our team I'd say Russell more than anybody else. He is kind of the heart and soul of our team," KU coach Bill Self said of Robinson, who erupted for a career-high 24 points in Wednesday's 83-73 win at Texas A&M.

"That may be a little strong, but the guys look to him as much as anybody. He's the guy they try to emulate and try to play like from an effort standpoint. He's impacted Mario (Chalmers) and helped Brandon (Rush). He's the best candidate to be our quarterback."

Robinson, who has started all 18 games, averages 8.6 points a game off 39.3 percent shooting. He's made 15 of 47 threes for 31.9 percent.

He has 60 assists against 32 turnovers and has been a steadying force running the point the past month.

"I'm happy," said Robinson, a 79.7 percent free thrower who hit 11 of 12 at Texas A&M. "I'm just going to continue to try to do what coach wants me to do. Hopefully it will stay that way," he added of starting at KU as his career progresses.

He would like to become a more consistent shooter.

"I think I'm shooting pretty good, but I think I could be knocking a lot more shots down because I'm definitely taking open shots," Robinson said. "I think I've done pretty well in that part, shot selection."

Self said Robinson's biggest improvement has been cutting down on turnovers. He had 32 turnovers against 25 assists in 24 games last season.

"Being a 2-guard puts pressure on you. You think that you are supposed to score," Self said. "I think starting the season Russell felt since we were playing Mario and Hawk (Jeff Hawkins) at point guard he had to shoot the ball to impact our team. He didn't play to his strength.

"We made the decision over Christmas to move Mario and Hawk off the ball and let Russell play point. He seems more comfortable pushing it. He doesn't feel he has to make plays. He can pick spots with the ball in his hands. He's getting in the lane and creating havoc."

Street tough like Stinson after playing ball on the asphalt of New York, Robinson might be one of the best defenders in the conference.

"He's a good on-the-ball defender, loose-ball guy and forces help offensively," Self said. "Now that he's not worried about making shots, he's shooting better. He's playing really well."

Robinson said there's an easy explanation -- hard work.

"I'm consistent in going hard," Robinson said. "Sometimes you can go hard one day and not show up the next. It's kind of my routine, working hard, keeping at it defensively. We're playing pretty well as a team right now. We're confident and hopeful we can keep it up during this stretch."

The Jayhawks will complete a stretch of four road games in their first six conference contests today. KU, 12-6 overall and 3-2 in Big 12 play compared to ISU's 13-6, 3-3 mark, will return home Monday to meet Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse.