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Robinson, early run help Kansas cruise past 'Nova

Mar 29, 2008 - 6:11 AM DETROIT (Ticker) -- Russell Robinson wanted to make sure that he and his Kansas teammates got another chance at a Final Four.

Robinson scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half Friday as the top-seeded Jayhawks rolled to a 72-57 victory over No. 12 Villanova in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional.

Brandon Rush had 16 points for Kansas (34-3), which advanced to a regional final for a second straight year and the fifth time in the last seven years.

However, the Jayhawks have reached the Final Four just once in that span, when they was the national runner-up to Syracuse in 2003. Kansas will aim to make another trip when it faces No. 10 Davidson and scoring machine Stephen Curry on Sunday.

"I think he's (Curry) great," Rush said of his team's upcoming matchup. "He can score any kind of way, taking it to the rack, getting to the free-throw line, and he's a tremendous 3-point shooter. He's one of the best players I've seen in a while."

Kansas coach Bill Self also will be appearing in his fifth regional final, going twice previously with the Jayhawks and one each with Illinois and Tulsa. The 45-year-old is 0-4 in those previous trips.

Apparently, Self has an idea of how to end his slump.

"Well, I think one thing that I would say is fresh minds and fresh legs are more important than anything else going on," Self said. "This sounds silly, but whether or not we get down at 3:30 tonight or 1:30 or 2 is important.

"I think the biggest thing that I've learned is you really have to manage Saturday and their sleep as well as you can, to make sure we're as fresh as we can be on Sunday, which I think we'll be. I think I've worked guys too hard in the past on the off-day."

After the Wildcats (22-13) pulled ahead, 6-5, on a layup by Dwayne Anderson three minutes in, the Jayhawks ripped off a decisive 21-4 run. Robinson hit two 3-pointers and scored 10 points during the burst, which gave Kansas a 26-10 lead with 11:20 remaining.

"We wanted to come out and be the aggressor," Robinson said. "Come out and throw the first punch. We did a good job of hitting show shots early."

"I thought Russell was the player of the game," Self said. "He made shots early, which is always a bonus when Russell does that."

Robinson also played a part in one of the most exciting plays during that run, finding Rush for a dunk in transition with an alley-oop that hit off the backboard.

Rush did a great job on the play despite not expecting the pass to hit the glass.

"No, I wasn't expecting that," Rush said. "Russ (Robinson) just gave me a bad pass. I still managed to catch it with my hands and dunk it somehow."

Despite the poor pass, the senior point guard Robinson finished with five assists.

Villanova, which was trying to reach the "Elite Eight" for the second time in three years, did manage to close within seven points on the strength of an 11-2 run, but could not slow down Kansas thereafter.

Rush rebounded his own missed 3-pointer minutes later, leading to a layup, and Mario Chalmers had back-to-back baskets from the arc en route to scoring eight straight points, giving the Jayhawks a 38-21 advantage with 3:15 left before the half.

With seven different Kansas players scoring in the first half, Villanova was left searching for answers on the defensive end.

"With them, they have great inside and outside scoring," Wildcats guard Scottie Reynolds said. "You can't just limit one or two guys on the inside, one or two guys in the perimeter. I know a couple times you would go out, try to play the perimeter, and they would throw up a lob. They did a great job of seeing our breakdowns."

Kansas, which held a 41-22 bulge at the break, extended the lead to 21 points with 11:22 remaining when Sherron Collins capped a 7-2 run that included dunks by both Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun.

Chalmers scored 14 points and Kaun added nine and seven rebounds for the Jayhawks, who shot 52 percent (24-of-46) from the field.

Yet, Self was bothered by the team's sloppy play, as Kansas finished with 18 turnovers compared with 16 assists.

"When you make shots, all offenses looks good," he said. "We did execute pretty well for a stretch in the first half. In the second half, we really didn't. We kind of hung on after we played out of the foul situation with Mario and Brandon."

Robinson also made his mark on the defensive end, helping to limit leading scorer Reynolds to just 11 points on 4-of-13 from the floor.

"Defensively, he (Robinson) did a fabulous job on Scottie," Self said. "He knows those guys on Villanova's team from way back, at least some of them. I know it was a big game from him. I could just tell going into the game, he was probably as focused as I'd seen him in a long, long time - maybe as I've ever seen him. I was really happy for him."

Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark had 10 points and seven rebounds each for the Wildcats, who shot 36 percent (21-of-59), including 3-of-17 on 3-pointers.

"What we feared was not being able to score," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We were going to need to make threes against them. We needed Scottie and Dante to score. They just did a great job defensively. They really did. We give them a lot of credit."

    --- --- -----
    VILLANOVA 22 35 57
    KANSAS (4) 41 31 72 FINAL

    Mar 28 11:55 PM


    Mar 28 10:39 PM