Sunday, March 23, 2008
25Field-goal attempts in each half by KU
14, 15Field-goal makes in first, second half by KU
8, 4Field-goal makes in first, second half by UNLV
26.7UNLV's shooting percentage (12-for-45)
15Points by which UNLV outscored KU from the free-throw line
3KU's second-half turnovers (and 10 total, same as UNLV)
38-10Kansas' advantage in points in the paint
5Three-pointers for each team (UNLV attempted 22, KU 13)
Omaha, Neb. Russell Robinson whispered in the ear of his backcourt buddy, Sherron Collins, as Kansas University's dynamic duo headed to the podium Saturday in a chilly Qwest Center interview room.
"I was telling Sherron, 'I needed this game,''' Robinson said after breaking out of a personal scoring slump, and, along with Collins, pretty much saving the day in No. 1-seeded KU's 75-56 second-round NCAA Midwest Regional victory over No. 8-seed UNLV.
"I'd not been able to do anything offensively since the postseason started. This was great for my confidence."
KU's senior point guard scored five points in a first-round victory over Portland State. He had seven total in three Big 12 tournament victories, including none in the final against Texas.
But he tallied 13 points off 4-of-5 shooting and 4-of-5 free throwing against the Runnin' Rebels.
Thirteen points may not seem like a lot, but eight of them came in a crucial 14-3 run that extended a 46-41 lead (with 11:58 left) to 60-44 at 7:49. Collins contributed the other six points in that surge, which included a Robinson three that gave KU a 53-42 advantage.
"You don't want to get out of character," said Robinson, who thrived the second half when coach Bill Self switched to a four-guard lineup - KU's game plan of working the ball inside against a small UNLV team never materializing.
"But at the same time, you have to be aggressive and be willing to step up. We couldn't get the ball inside tonight, so we adjusted. Me and Sherron started driving the ball and were able to get some big baskets for us," Robinson noted.
Mario Chalmers, who joined Brandon Rush in Self's four-guard lineup, led the way with 17 points off 6-of-11 shooting, while Rush had 12 and Collins 10.
No KU big man scored in double figures despite the fact the Rebels' tallest player was 6-foot-8.
"They swarmed our big men inside and got deflections," Robinson said. "They are a scrappy team. It was definitely good to get this win under our belt, exhale a bit and move on to the Sweet 16."
The hard-earned victory - KU's gritty defense held the Rebels to miserable 26.7 percent shooting (five of 22 threes to KU's five of 13) - pushed the Jayhawks into next Friday's Sweet 16 game against either Siena or Villanova at Ford Field in Detroit.
"I think from a coach's perspective, this was a great game for us because we didn't exactly execute the game plan," Self said. "We didn't get the ball inside with as many touches early and those sorts of things.
"But the way we got it was put it in the guards hands and driving the ball, which turned out to be the biggest difference in the game. And we really defended. Our first-shot defense was really great when we didn't foul them, which was every other possession. It was a good, solid, grind-it-out win."
The game definitely was foul-plagued.
UNLV (27-8) hit 10 of 12 free throws to KU's five of seven the first half and trailed just, 34-29, at the break. By game's end, the Rebels had made 27 of 34 charities to KU's 12 of 19.
Guard Wink Adams made 15 of 17 free throws en route to his 25 points.
"Fouling is a part of defense. We obviously did a poor job of that," Self said after a game in which Rush fouled out and Darnell Jackson (eight points), Sasha Kaun (four points) and Robinson had four each. UNLV's Joe Darger (five points) and Rene Rougeau (four points) both fouled out.
"The second half, it looked to me like they went to Wink almost every possession. And I don't know what they told him, but I'm sure it was, 'Drive it, drive it, drive it,' because we'd foul. And that's exactly what we did.
"It was good strategy on their part. He's a very good player. He's great initiating and drawing contact, and he's so strong. For a guy that size (6-foot), he's very powerful."
So is Robinson.
"There's a lot of games where Russell doesn't appear he does as much offensively because you look at points," Self said. "But I think he does a lot offensively. It's just as important to make the pass to initiate the play as it is to make the pass to finish the play. He's the best initiator we have.
"He was good tonight. We spread the floor, and that placed Sherron and Russell's game as far as getting in there and making plays when you can't help off Mario or Brandon that much."
KU's big men were not miffed they had an off day, just happy the guards helped bail them out in keeping KU's season alive.
"My defender was fronting, and they were sinking in to help from the weak side," KU senior Kaun said. "We had to adjust. Russell did a phenomenal job. He was getting the ball to the rim, getting it to the paint."
Robinson was in no mood to boast after the game. On the contrary, he admitted he may be KU's weakest scoring threat, just not this night.
"If I was another team and I had to leave somebody open, it'd be me to leave open," Robinson said. "That's why I have to step up and knock down some shots."
"We know he can shoot and he can score," Collins said. "He just doesn't have to all the time. He helped us advance, and that's the most important thing to him."