“We didn't play very well, but you have to give South Carolina a lot of credit,” head coach Bill Self said. “They were more athletic and quicker to balls than we were. They were very ready to play and excited to play as evidenced by their quick start. We were not a very focused team at all.”
Kansas battled back from an eight-point deficit at halftime to defeat the Gamecocks 64-60 to stay undefeated on the season. The story of the game was the immergence of a young star in freshman Russell Robinson. With the game in the balance and the Jayhawks clinging to a one point lead, Robinson took the ball to the basket for a left handed lay-up giving Kansas a 61-58 lead with 38 seconds remaining in the game.
No stranger to clutch plays in his high school career; Robinson explains his ability to step up on a team with four seniors.
“When coach had me in, I knew he was confident in me, Robinson said. “I knew he wanted me to make something happen. Once I had an opening I went in to try to put a little pressure on the defense. They just let me go to the basket and I laid it in.”
Robinson finished with seven points and connected on two free throws with 13 seconds left in the game to secure the win for Kansas.
Even with the victory, Kansas struggled to establish a cohesive offense due to the stingy full court defense executed by South Carolina. The Gamecocks would jump out to an 11-0 lead before Wayne Simien put two points on the scoreboard for Kansas. Simien finished with 20 points and hauled down 11 boards but did suffer an injury to his left thumb in the second half.
Self is hopeful that his star player will not be out for an extended amount of time.
“We'll get X-rays and hopefully nothing is broken. If it is, he'll be out for a long time. We'll certainly hope and pray that it isn't bad,” Self commented.
South Carolina entered the game with an athletic squad and with only one loss to Clemson in overtime. The Gamecocks showed its ability to compete with the Jayhawks by using quickness and defensive intensity to score 22 points off Kansas turnovers.
Head coach for the Gamecocks, Dave Odom was pleased with the effort by the team but ultimately disappointed in the final outcome.
“We gave our team certain goals coming into the basketball game and we accomplished almost every one of those,” Odom said. “The ultimate goal that we had was to win the basketball game. We felt we could win the game, but we knew we would have to play extremely hard and extremely well and I think we did both of those. The other goal that we still have to work on is playing smarter. We took a couple of ill-advised shots that I thought really hurt us. We are still prone to doing things at inopportune times that lead to disaster. That certainly was true tonight.”
Besides Simien, the Kansas scoring attack was limited with only two other players reaching double-digit numbers. Sophomore J.R. Giddens hit 4 of 11 shots for 13 points and senior Keith Langford scored 11 in 28 minutes. Michael Lee only managed 11 minutes of play in the game and Christian Moody was fairly ineffective by fouling out with four points.
The No. 2 ranked Jayhawks improved to 7-0 on the season with their first game away from Allen Fieldhouse Wednesday at Kemper Arena against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.