Robinson's Career Night Paves the Way

Jan. 1, 2012

010112aaa_149_5901825.jpegLAWRENCE, Kan. – Thomas Robinson accomplished a feat only five other players in Big 12 history have achieved. The junior from Washington, D.C. scored 30 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in an 84-58 blowout over North Dakota on Saturday night in Allen Fieldhouse.

His 21 rebounds are the most by a Jayhawk since Nick Collison had 21 in the 2003 National Championship game against Syracuse. Only two (Wilt Chamberlain, seven times and Wayne Hightower, once) other (known) Jayhawks have accomplished a 30-point, 20-rebound game. The last time the incredible feat occurred was when Hightower did it on Feb. 13, 1961.

Jayhawk fans witnessed Robinson dominate the Fighting Sioux from beginning to end. Going into halftime, Robinson already picked up his ninth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

“It’s definitely a great accomplishment,” Robinson said. “Coach’s speech going into the game was getting momentum going into conference play and that’s all I wanted to do tonight. I wanted to send a message and get a full head of steam going into conference (play).”

Robinson wasted little time getting back into the flow in the second half. He scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while also knocking down the first three-pointer of his career.

“I can’t even put it into words (how much his game has improved in the last year),” he explained. “I’m definitely a better basketball player. I’m more patient and it just comes with having more experience on the floor. I think I’m still getting better as a player.”

Aside from his career-high 30 points and 21 (13 defensive and eight offensive) rebounds, he also finished with four assists, two steals, a block and no turnovers, all in 34 minutes of action. As a team, the Jayhawks only turned the ball over 10 times, while finishing with 21 assists.

Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor set up Robinson on numerous occasions throughout the game, including the first two points of the game when Taylor lobbed the ball toward the rim as the 6-foot-10 power forward threw it down for the first of six dunks on the night.

010112aaa_149_5901817.jpeg“Right up there,” said Taylor about where he would rank Robinson with big guys he has played with throughout his career. “I think the same way the Twins (Marcus and Markieff Morris) improved after their sophomore year, going into their junior year, the way they were in the gym (all the time). I’ve never seen anybody work that hard and I think Thomas (Robinson) is the same way. He’s been in the gym working harder than everybody and it’s shown. He was a beast today and he’s been playing like a beast for us. I hope he can get a couple more of these 30-20’s.”

Head coach Bill Self had nothing but glowing remarks after the game about Robinson’s play, even calling it his best performance of the season, by far.

“He played great,” Self explained. “He is so unselfish, and he didn’t force one shot. He passed the ball and should have had six or seven assists, because we shot the ball so bad today. Still, he was so good, he went after the ball. He needed to have that happen. This is a tough time of the year for him for a lot of reasons, with the anniversaries and everything and it is so good to see him come out and play. He played with joy today, the first time I think he has played with joy in awhile.”

010112aaa_149_5901814.jpegRobinson came into the 2011-12 season knowing he was going to be a focal point for the Jayhawks.

“To be the best player in the country,” said Robinson about what his goal was coming into the season. “Seeing all the expectations that were set for me was something I’ve never seen before. I knew coming into the season I was going to see some things that I’ve never faced and I didn’t want to let anybody down. I tried to set me expectations higher than everybody else.”

Like recent productive post players that Kansas has produced, Robinson is quick to point to assistant coach Danny Manning for helping him improve since he has stepped on campus two years ago.

“He has taught me the ins and outs of the game,” Robinson explained. “When I came in, I was out of control and a raw athlete, but he has slowly but surely turned me into a better player.”

It seems like Robinson might be hitting his stride just in time for Big 12 Conference play to begin.

“Coach (Self) has been stressing to me for 90 percent of the season, if I learn how to play out of the double team that eventually the offense would come from me” Robinson said. “I’m finally listening to him and he knows what he’s talking about.”

The Big 12 season starts for Robinson and the Jayhawks on Jan. 4 when KU hosts Kansas State at 7 p.m., on the Big 12 Television Network. The Jayhawks have won 20-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season with eight of those at home.