LAWRENCE — Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding.
For three straight up-tempo practices, Kansas coach Bill Self drilled his players on the importance of rebounding the ball against Kansas State. They must have paid attention.
Thomas Robinson got his 10th double-double of the season and the 14th-ranked Jayhawks held a whopping 50-26 edge on the boards in a 67-49 victory over the 23rd-ranked Wildcats on Wednesday night.
“I’ve never in 27 years, including coaching 13-year-olds, I’ve never been part of a game where our team got its tail whipped in the physical part of the game the way we did today,” Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. “It was a complete mismatch. They got 24 more possessions than us.”
Robinson had 14 rebounds to go with 15 points and Travis Releford had 16 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. In addition, Jeff Withey came in with nine boards and guard Elijah Johnson had eight as the Jayhawks (11-3, 1-0 Big 12) launched their quest for an eighth straight Big 12 championship.
“I never would have dreamed that we could outrebound them by that margin,” Self said. “But we did.”
It was exactly what the Jayhawks worked at all week.
“Before the game, we definitely did a lot of drills in rebounding,” Withey said. “We definitely prepared to go and have a physical game, and it was a physical game. We were working on rebounding all week and it showed.”
Trailing by as many as 18 points early, the Wildcats (11-2, 0-1) got 3-pointers from Jamar Samuels and Rodney McGruder in a 10-0 run and closed to 39-36. But Conner Teahan’s two 3-pointers triggered a rally by Kansas that included dunks by Robinson on consecutive possessions.
“We played actually about 35 pretty good minutes and then we played a miserable 5 when they cut it to three (points),” Self said. “Then (Teahen) makes the two biggest shots of the game, in my opinion. They worked their tail off to get it back to three and then real quick it goes to nine, or 11 or whatever, and we were able to keep them at arm’s length the rest of the way.”
It was the Jayhawks’ 43rd victory over their state rivals in the last 46 meetings of the 272-game series.
Tyshawn Taylor had 13 points for the Jayhawks, who had their 21st straight conference-opening victory.
McGruder had 15 points and Samuels had 12 for Kansas State, which was only 5 for 20 from 3-point range.
Kansas State had emphasized all week the importance of getting off to a good start. But the Jayhawks, fueled by Robinson’s six points off a putback and two medium-range jumpers, went on an 18-4 run in the opening minutes and seized a 23-5 lead.
By the time Martavious Irving finally scored at the 8:12 mark of the half, the Wildcats had hit only three of 17 shots while Kansas was 10 for 19 and held an 18-6 rebounding edge en route to a 35-20 halftime lead.
“It was something that goes back to the last three practices we had,” Kansas State guard Will Spradling said. “We didn’t come out in practice very well. If you don’t come out well in practice, then you are not going to come out and play well.”
Kansas called time out after the Wildcats closed to 39-36 and 3-point specialist Teahan immediately connected from beyond the arc.
“They almost tied it and he came in the game and hit two back-to-back 3s and that was huge for us,” Taylor said. “It got us back in a comfortable lead and we pulled off from there.”
Irving went to the line with a chance to slice the lead to five points but missed two free throws. Seven-footer Withey rebounded for the Jayhawks and slammed home a dunk on the other end.
After Spradling’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 47-41, Releford’s 3-pointer and Robinson’s dunk off a pass from Teahan triggered a window-rattling roar from the crowd and put the Jayhawks on top 52-41 with 7:53 to go.
Following a timeout, Robinson dunked again and then soared to the basket for a dunk off Taylor’s missed jumper.
Taylor’s uncontested layup capped the run and gave the Jayhawks a 56-41 lead.
“We got it to three points at one time,” Martin said. “Then we lose Conner Teahan on back-to-back possessions. The scouting report says, ‘Do not leave Conner Teahan when he is in the corner,’ and we left him twice and he made both shots.”
The Wildcats came in second in the nation averaging 28.8 free throws but were only eight of 16 from the line on Wednesday.
No. 14 Kansas 67,
No. 23 Kansas State 49
KANSAS ST. (11-2)
Samuels 4-10 2-3 12, Gipson 0-3 0-0 0, Irving 3-5 0-2 7, McGruder 5-14 4-4 15, Spradling 2-7 0-0 5, Southwell 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 2-5 1-1 5, Rodriguez 0-4 0-0 0, Diaz 0-1 0-0 0, Henriquez 2-6 0-4 4, Jones 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 18-57 8-16 49.
Robinson 7-11 1-4 15, Releford 6-11 2-2 16, Withey 3-4 2-2 8, Taylor 5-14 3-4 13, Johnson 1-7 0-0 3, Tharpe 0-2 0-0 0, Teahan 2-3 0-0 6, Wesley 0-1 0-0 0, Young 1-2 4-4 6. Totals 25-55 12-16 67.
Halftime — Kansas 35-20. Three-point goals — Kansas St. 5-20 (Samuels 2-5, Irving 1-1, Spradling 1-4, McGruder 1-5, Jones 0-1, Rodriguez 0-2, Williams 0-2), Kansas 5-13 (Teahan 2-3, Releford 2-4, Johnson 1-4, Tharpe 0-1, Taylor 0-1). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Kansas St. 26 (McGruder, Samuels 5), Kansas 50 (Robinson 14). Assists — Kansas St. 6 (Spradling 5), Kansas 13 (Johnson 5). Total fouls — Kansas St. 15, Kansas 19. A — 16,300.