Heading into Sunday night’s exhibition game against the Washburn Ichabods, most people knew what was going to happen. Kansas was going to clobber their neighbors from the west, and the visiting guys were going to make post game quotes about what a great experience it was before getting out of town with their $20,000 check.
For whatever reason, Bob Chipman’s Ichabods never got the message about how they were supposed to play, giving the Jayhawks a lot more than they bargained for in an uncomfortable 79-70 Kansas win.
Charged up to play against the nation’s number one ranked team, Washburn was the clear aggressor and took an early 19-10 lead when six-foot-three guard Carl Jenkins buried a three pointer with 13:17 to play in the first half.
Although Kansas would bounce back to tie the game at 21 only two minutes and 11 seconds later thanks to an offensive rebound and basket from freshman forward C.J. Giles, the message was sent.
“They came out with so much intensity in the first half, the second half too,” said Kansas junior forward Christian Moody. “You could tell that our intensity just wasn’t there like it was in the first game.”
Despite a significant size advantage on the blocks, Kansas struggled to establish All-American senior Wayne Simien. The six-foot-eight inch Simien found few open looks and struggled -- five turnovers on the night -- to find teammates when faced with Washburn’s aggressive double teams. Washburn defended Simien so well that he didn’t score his first bucket until he nailed a jumper with 5:40 to go in the first half putting Kansas up 28-26.
Simien would hit another jumper on the next trip down the court as he scored eight of his team high 13 points during the final moments of the half as Kansas went to the locker room with a 42-37 halftime advantage.
“I expected it to be like that, it was part of the game plan and it is just a matter of making good decisions in and out of the double teams and find the open guy, which is something I didn’t do well tonight,” said Simien who also collected 15 rebounds. “I had five TO’s and didn’t shoot the ball well so good thing we have a few more practices to work on that.”
In the second half Washburn came out every bit as aggressive as they had for the opening tip and refused to let Kansas go on an extended run. Senior guard Keith Langford drained two straight three pointers to give the Jayhawks a 50-45 lead with 16:06 to go and it looked like the rout was coming.
After a television timeout, six-foot-one freshman guard Russell Robinson got on a roll scoring all seven of his points during a key seven minute and two second stretch as Kansas pushed ahead to a working margin of 66-54 with 8:23 to go. During the stretch Robinson scored on a steal and a layup, a three and a tough finish at the hoop while also dishing out a couple of nice passes.
“That’s what I have to do when I have Keith, Wayne Simien and J.R. on the same team, my offense is probably like the fifth option maybe,” said Robinson. “So I just try to get my defense to get my offense going, basically just to change the tempo of the game and add a little more pressure.”
With a reasonably comfortable working margin, the Jayhawks were able to hold off a few more Washburn charges before finishing up with the 79-70 victory.
Watching the game and looking at the stat sheet it wasn’t easy for head coach Bill Self to find many positives outside of Robinson’s sparkling second half. The Jayhawks shot only 40.7% from the field and only managed to outrebound a smaller team by a margin of 45-41. Throw in some silly turnovers and relatively quiet nights from Langford -- 11 points on 4-11 shooting -- and sophomore guard J.R. Giddens who scored 10 points on 3-8 shooting and it was ugly.
However, Self was pleased with the overall production that he got out of bigs not named Simien and his young players.
“Our five big guys other than Wayne combined for 25 points and 15 rebounds I think in 47 minutes,” said Self. “I was hoping for 15 and 10 or 11, that’s some great production there. Then of course I thought our best perimeter player tonight was hands down Russell Robinson, so I think our freshman did some nice things.”
Leading the way for Washburn was quick six-foot-five forward Travis Robbins who finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Teammates Karlton Mims, Carl Jenkins and Randy Brown chipped in with 12, 12 and 11 points respectively.
Joining Simien, Langford and Giddens in double figures for Kansas were Aaron Miles and Moody who scored 10 points each. Kansas gets things going for real on Friday night in Lawrence when they open their season with a game against the Vermont Catamounts.